Defendant exonerated eight years after incident
Sunday, June 14, 2015, 9:36 In April 2007 an Etzion Bloc resident shot into the air when Arab youths pelted his car with rocks and he determined that his life was clearly endangered. Two and a half years later he was detained and accused of having shot one of the Arab youths. After an additional two and a half years, five years after the incident, an indictment was filed against him for the crime of “aggravated assault”. In June 2015 he was exonerated after a prolonged trial. In the meantime the Arab complainant carried out a stabbing attack, sat in jail and was released in the Shalit Deal. Honenu calls on the Attorney General’s office and the public to do soul searching.
After years of a prolonged trial and having the threat of prison hanging over his head, an Etzion Bloc resident can now breathe easily after being exonerated from an indictment in which he was accused of shooting an Arab who had thrown rocks at his car. The 45 days during which the Attorney General’s office could have appealed the verdict given by Judge Esther Nahalieli-Khayt in the Jerusalem District Court has passed and because an appeal was not filed, the prolonged saga has finally come to an end. During the detention and prolonged trial Honenu attorney David HaLevi gave legal counsel to the Etzion Bloc resident. The Etzion Bloc resident’s ordeal started in April 2007 when he, a married man and the father of four children, was driving home. On one of the dangerous curves near the village of Tuqua a group of Arab youths pelted his car with rocks and boulders. He got out of his car, shot a few times into the air, and continued driving. (The Arab village of Tuqua is located in the same region as the Jewish community of Teko’a.) Approximately two and a half years later he was detained by detectives from the Central Unit of the Yehuda and Shomron Police at a governmental office at which he works, on a claim that during the course of the above mentioned incident he had shot an Arab youth and seriously wounded him in the head. The detainee completely denied the charge it and said that he fired into the air after he determined that his life was in definite danger when Arab youths threw rocks and boulders at him from a terraced hillside on a sharp curve, the other side of which was a chasm. After being interrogated he was released. After an additional two and a half years, five years after the incident, an indictment was filed against him for the crime of “aggravated assault” the penalty for which is up to 20 years in prison. The injured Arab youth initially claimed that he was shot while he was harvesting almonds. Later he admitted that he threw rocks at the car. During the time that passed until he gave testimony at the trial the Arab youth attempted to murder a soldier in a knife attack in the Etzion Bloc and was given a lengthy prison sentence, but released in the Shalit Deal approximately one year and three months later. Despite the attempted murder the Attorney General’s office continued to portray the Arab youth as an innocent complainant. During the trial the question of whether or not the complainant had been injured by shooting was raised. The Attorney General’s office requested the opinion of Professor Hiss of the National Institute of Forensic Medicine who determined that “no signs of bullet entry or exit are apparent on his head,” and therefore it is not possible to prove that there was a shooting and it is possible that the youth who threw rocks was injured by a rock or other object as he fled the scene of the incident. Instead of closing the case at this stage or opening a different direction of investigation, the Attorney General’s office decided in an especially unusual step to hire a private expert to give his opinion. According to the private expert’s opinion there is a higher probability that the wound was caused by shooting than by rock throwing. Therefore an indictment was filed by Jerusalem District Attorney Yuval Kedar. In addition to Prof. Hiss’s testimony, two experts testified for the defense, one of whom decisively stated that it was not a gunshot wound and the other of whom stated that there was no exit wound and that in light of all the findings the probability that it was a gunshot wound is extremely low. During the trial Honenu attorney David HaLevi revealed something which astonished all of the experts and Judge Esther Nahalieli-Khayt. The private expert hired by the Attorney General’s office had examined the photographs of the wound taken at the hospital in Hevron in reverse order, which completely changes the interpretation. The photograph which included the incisions from the operation – which closely resemble wounds – was read by the expert as the initial photograph of the wound. Judge Nahalieli-Khayt ruled that this error refutes the testimony of the expert for the prosecution. Relying on the two experts for the defense and also the testimony of Professor Hiss, she ruled that it was not possible to prove that the wound was a gunshot wound and therefore ordered the exoneration of the defendant due to lack of proof. Because of this ruling, the issue of whether or not the defendant was justified in firing into the air in self defense has not yet been judged. Additionally an expert in shooting and ballistics testified that after conducting comprehensive examinations he determined that it was not possible for there to have been eye contact between the defendant and the youth who threw rocks. Also the police investigators testified that in the evidence of the case there was mention of “a reliable source” who gave testimony that the complainant was injured by a rock and not by a gunshot, however the police did not bother to verify the information. Judge Nahalieli-Khayt stated that she accepted the defendant’s testimony regarding what had occurred. She also ruled that the long line of Arab witnesses who testified in court gave “tendentious testimonies which contradicted each other concerning fundamental details,” and that the complainant lied several times while giving various testimonies. The defendant, who was fired from his job in computerization in a governmental office due to the indictment filed against him, is currently considering filing a significant lawsuit against the State of Israel now that he has been exonerated. It should be noted that left-wing organizations, among them B’Tselem, assisted the Arab complainant with filing his complaint and also with handling the case. “This trial should light up a thousand warning lights” Honenu has been assisting the defendant with legal counsel from the moment he was detained until the long awaited exoneration and calls on the Attorney General’s office and the public to do a soul searching. “We founded Honenu 13 years ago due to cases exactly like this. Someone drives home, is threatened or injured in a terror attack, and then finds himself in legal difficulties, possibly facing a prison sentence, merely because he defended himself,” said Shmuel (Zangy) Meidad, the director of Honenu. “The fact that this situation continues and the Attorney General’s office and the police “turn the world upside down” in an attempt to convict innocent Jews even when the complainants are despicable terrorists, should light up a thousand warning lights. We repeatedly warn and demand change, including a comprehensive “house-cleaning” at the Attorney General’s office. Discrimination is expressed in law enforcement in Yehuda and Shomron, in law enforcement in cases of incitement and in the harassment of nationalist prisoners, who also see before their eyes thousands of terrorist murderers being released to freedom.” Honenu attorney David HaLevi, who represented the defendant stated that, ”The Attorney General’s office did itself a kindness by not filing an appeal, because in any event it would not have had a chance. The indictment should have never been filed, and the Attorney General’s office got a stinging slap on the cheek from the court which rejected claim after claim from them, as they tried everything in order to achieve a conviction at any price. There is no doubt that there is an element of persecution and abuse of my client in the conduct of the Attorney General’s office. My client suffered terribly over the course of years from his detention until his exoneration and public funds were wasted in prosecuting this case.”