Arabs rally against A-G decision

At least 20,000 Arab Israelis protest in Sakhnin against Mazuz's decision on Oct. 2000 cases.

mazuz 248.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
mazuz 248.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Tens of thousands of Arab Israelis protested peacefully Friday against the state's decision not to indict police involved in the deaths of 12 Arab citizens and a Palestinian in anti-government riots eight years ago. Demonstrators in the northern town of Sakhnin carried 13 mock coffins bearing the victims' names and photographs. Hadash Chairman Muhammad Barakei called the turnout a "cry of protest against the racist establishment." Last week, Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz described the killings as "terrible and worrying" but said there was not enough evidence to warrant indictments. He cited refusal of the families to allow autopsies of the dead as one of his reasons. MK Jamal Zahalka (Balad) said that "the hands which wrote the [Police Investigative Department] report and Mazuz's decision, are the same as those who pulled the trigger in October 2000 and killed 13 Arabs," Israel Radio reported. Thousands of Arab Israelis rioted for several days in October 2000 in solidarity with the second intifada against Israel, which was then erupting in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Protesters blocked off roads, threw rocks and firebombs, and in several cases opened fire at police. Police returned fire, and killed 13 rioters just outside the Arab Israeli town of Umm el-Fahm in the North. Officers said they did not have enough non-lethal crowd dispersal gear and were heavily outnumbered by the violent mobs. The Justice Ministry's PID stopped investigating the deaths shortly after the end of the riots, when the government appointed former Supreme Court justice Theodore Or to head a state commission of inquiry into the events and what led up to them. During the investigation, the commission identified policemen as suspects in several of the killings. In its final report, published on September 1, 2003, it called on the PID to resume its investigation of all the killings. Two years later, in September 2005, the PID announced that it was closing all the files without a single indictment, either because it could not find sufficient evidence to press charges in some of the cases or because it could not find suspects in others. The decision created such an uproar that Mazuz decided to reexamine the PID's findings. The following year, on October 15, 2006, Adalah - The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, which had represented the families of the victims during the Or Commission hearings, published a report called "The Accused," in which it carried out its own investigation of the killings and reached its own conclusions. Dan Izenberg and AP contributed to this report.