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Illegally closed assault case to be reopened

Friday, December 7, 2018, 12:10 A case investigating the September 2017 assault of a family in Jerusalem was closed shortly after it was opened. Following repeated attempts to file an appeal on the decision, Honenu Attorney Chayim Bleicher was recently informed that the case had been illegally closed, and would be reopened. On September 2, 2017, the family parked their car on a street in the City of David neighborhood of Jerusalem, and went to pray selichot prayers at the Western Wall. They returned two hours later and noticed that a local resident was tampering with one of the car doors. When they approached him and asked him what he was doing, he cursed them and shouted at them that they were blocking his grocery store. After an argument which lasted for only a few seconds, the family got into their car and were about to leave. Then the nephew of the grocery store owner appeared and poured boiling coffee through an open window of the car onto one of the passengers, causing him burns. The family got out of the car and as they were calling the police, the grocery store owner and his nephew assaulted them, punching and hitting. Even after local security guards arrived and attempted to separate the assailants from the family, who remained passive, they continued to fight. Policemen who arrived on the scene detained the assailants. The family went to the Shalem Police Station to file a complaint, where they were also interrogated as suspects. They gave testimonies, which were later corroborated by a video clip from a security camera which recorded the incident. The video clip shows the family talking to the grocery store owner, getting into their car in order to leave, and then the nephew appearing and pouring something into the car. The camera also recorded the assault, the assailants’ attempt to continue fighting despite the efforts of the security guards to separate them from the family, and the fact that the family was passive and did not fight back at all. The video clips contradict the testimonies of the assailants, who claimed that the family entered the store, cursed the owner and his nephew and assaulted them. The investigatory case was closed only several months after it had been opened. The assaulted family was informed that, “The circumstances of the matter do not warrant continuing your investigation.” To their surprise, they discovered that the case against their assailants, who belong to a minority group, had also been closed. In light of the evidence gathered at the time, the fact the assailants connected themselves to the incident, and the fact that there was no evidence against the family, Honenu Attorney Chayim Bleicher filed a request to see all of the investigatory material in the case in order to file an appeal on the closing of the case. For almost five months the Shalem Police Station did not respond to Bleicher’s requests, until he turned to the State Comptroller and the Public Complaints Officer of the Israeli Police, who authorized his access to the evidence. Due to the repeated delays the appeal was filed only in June 2018. After two months of not receiving a reply, Bleicher sent an additional letter to the Attorney General’s office concerning the appeal, to which he recently received a response: The case was illegally closed by the Israeli Police Internal Investigations Department and will be reopened by the Israeli Police Department of Prosecution, which has the authority to decide on the matter. Until a decision is reached by the Department of Prosecution, the filed appeal will be shelved. Honenu Attorney Chayim Bleicher, who is representing the family, stated that, “The phenomenon of assaulting Israelis in the Old City of Jerusalem is nationalistically motivated antisemitism, as if Jewish lives and property are legitimate targets. Each and every assault must be treated with the utmost seriousness and not as if it they are minor scuffles, in which sometimes the blame is shared by the two sides. “Concerning the incident at hand, all of the evidence shows that my clients were brutally assaulted and did not respond with any violence on their part. Therefore we call on the police and the prosecution to rectify the serious error that occurred and to prosecute the assailants to the full extent of the law, thereby giving Israeli citizens a feeling of security.”

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