Five under suspicion in mob attack on innocent Eritrean mistaken for terrorist in Beersheba

Southern District Attorney's Office calls for per-indictment hearings for suspects, including a soldier, two prison guards and two civilians.

Israeli crowd beat Eritrean migrant mistakenly identified as Palestinian shooter (photo credit: screenshot)
Israeli crowd beat Eritrean migrant mistakenly identified as Palestinian shooter
(photo credit: screenshot)
The Southern District Attorney’s Office on Thursday sent letters to five suspects accused of beating an innocent Eritrean man on October 18 after a terrorist attack at the Beersheba Central Bus Station, summoning them to pre-indictment hearings.
The five men are a soldier, two prison guards and two civilians.
Haptom Zarhum, 29, was mistaken for a terrorist and died of gunshot wounds, according to an autopsy report, but was also captured on camera being brutally beaten by a mob that included the five suspects.
In late October, acting police commissioner Asst.-Ch. Benzi Sau said detectives had begun collecting evidence and questioning witnesses to the beating of Zarhum, who was first mistakenly shot by a security guard and then set upon by bystanders, who kicked him and dropped a metal bench on his head after he was incapacitated and lying on the floor.
“We know the public is living under a great deal of pressure right now, but there are clear lines and we will not allow people to harm minorities [Arabs] or suspects,” Sau said.
The terrorist, Muhand al-Uqbi, 21, an Israeli Beduin from Hura, acted alone, and not as was initially thought.
Uqbi, Zarhum and Golani Brigade soldier Omri Levy, 19, from Sdei Hemed, were killed and 10 other people were wounded in the attack.
After the shooting, Ziad, a security guard, said that he heard rapid gunfire and ran inside the bus station, where he saw Zarhum crawling on the floor next to a soldier who had been stabbed.
Ziad, speaking just after the shooting and before it had been determined that Zarhum was innocent, said that he fired one round to wound the man he thought was a terrorist.
There was no announcement about prosecuting Zarhum’s shooter, but a Justice Ministry spokeswoman confirmed that he would not be prosecuted, as an investigation had shown that his mistaken shooting of Zarhum had been an understandable mistake under the circumstances and was not based on extraneous considerations, such as his Eritrean ethnicity.
The Justice Ministry also indicated that security officials and civilians had tried to stop the five suspects from attacking Zarhum after he was lying wounded on the floor, but the five had persisted.
A Justice Ministry spokeswoman added that they are likely to be indicted, because even if Zarhum had been a terrorist, attacking him after he was wounded and was no longer a threat was illegal.
Zarhum’s family is eligible to receive the benefits granted to relatives of terrorist victims, the Defense Ministry and National Insurance Institute said, although the law holds that only Israeli residents, citizens or others who entered the country legally are eligible for such benefits.
The joint statement added that people wounded in terrorist attacks who are not eligible for benefits can turn to a special committee to decide if they merit an exception to the law.
In the case of Zarhum, the Defense Ministry and National Insurance Institute have already decided to bring the case up before a special committee set to meet soon.
Ma’ariv Online staff contributed to this report.