Honenu, prosecution trade barbs over Ahuvia Sandak probe

The prosecution's conduct has been accused of amounting to a cover-up for the police.

Israeli police officers clash with demonstrators during a protest following the death of Ahuvia Sandak a few days ago in a car crash during a police chase, outside the Police headquarters in Jerusalem, December 26, 2020 (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH 90)
Israeli police officers clash with demonstrators during a protest following the death of Ahuvia Sandak a few days ago in a car crash during a police chase, outside the Police headquarters in Jerusalem, December 26, 2020
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH 90)
The right-wing legal NGO Honenu and the state prosecution took shots at each other on Tuesday over the investigation into the death of Ahuvia Sandak on December 21.
In the latest twist of the controversy, Honenu lawyer Menashe Yaado accused Police Investigation Department (PID) Director Keren Ben Menachem of trying to cover up alleged police crimes in Sandak’s death, while Deputy State’s Attorney Shlomo (Mumi) Lemberger accused Yaado of lies and defamation.
Sandak was killed when the vehicle he was in flipped over while he and a group of activists were fleeing from police and while the police either accidentally collided with his car or purposely tried to force his car to stop.
Early evidence indicates that Sandak was not the driver and that he may not have been wearing a seat-belt at the time, as the other four passengers were not hurt nearly as bad.
The Jerusalem Post has learned that the current police narrative is that the passengers in the car, a mix of minors and young adults, were throwing rocks at moving Palestinian vehicles and even hit and harmed one Palestinian.
If the police were too aggressive, they could face charges or be disciplined, whereas if the car flipping was an accident, then it is possible that only Sandak’s co-activists will be charged for rock throwing and possibly dangerous driving leading to his death.
Honenu has not actively denied that there was rock throwing against Palestinians, but has said that the police pursuit of Sandak and the others was far more dangerous and ended in greater violence than anything the activists might have done beforehand.
The more direct accusations against Ben Menachem also came after an extraordinary letter on Monday from PID Deputy Director Moshe Saada to Lemberger accusing Ben Menachem of violating proper procedure.
Saada did not accuse Ben Menachem of a cover-up, but he did say that her decision to release the police involved in the incident only hours after they were brought to the station violated procedure.
Also, Saada attacked Ben Menachem and the prosecution’s decision to bring the police’s Jerusalem District into the investigation along with the PID as irregular.
Yaado then took Saada’s attacks a step further and said these irregularities amounted to a cover-up, including giving the released police officers a chance to coordinate their narratives.
Lemberger responded to Yaado saying that Ben Menachem’s decision to release the police involved from custody after only a few hours was a professional decision made based on a standard legal analysis of the case.
He said that releasing the police also did not mean they were off the hook, and that if necessary, they could still be indicted or disciplined.
Regarding the involvement of the Jerusalem District police, he said that the case was split up, with only PID investigating police and only the Jerusalem District investigating the activists.
Lemberger said having these two different police bodies involved was necessary in order to probe both sides of the issue, and noted that the Jerusalem District police investigators had no connection to the police being probed, such that there could be no charges of favoritism.
Saada himself had a long impressive career in the PID until Ben Menachem was appointed the chief.
The two have a wrought relationship with Saada believing he should have been appointed PID director.
A Justice Ministry spokeswoman said that Saada’s objections would be handled internally and that he did not have a role in this specific probe.