Sandak case: Ombudsman leveled criticism at head of PIU

Updated: Jan 29


Ahuvia Sandak, z”l; Photo courtesy of the family

Honenu is representing those who are insisting on the investigation of the death of Ahuvia Sandak z”l, who was tragically killed in a police car chase in December 2020, and defending the many who are being detained while demonstrating for change in police behavior. The car Ahuvia was in with four other boys overturned when the police car collided with it from behind. Please click here for a list of posts connected to the case.

Tuesday, November 2, 2021, 20:18 On behalf of the Sandak family, whom he is representing, Honenu Attorney Menashe Yado sent a letter to Judge David Rosen (retired), who is serving as the Ombudsman of the State Representatives in the Courts. The letter states several claims against Attorney Keren Bar-Menachem, the head of the Police Investigation Unit (PIU), regarding her conduct following the police car chase. The claims include delaying interrogation of the policemen involved with the car chase while also closing off the scene of the incident, failing to fulfill her duties, and also “firmly closing her eyes and the eyes of the investigators over whom she has authority, which caused a severe investigative failure”. The family asked Ombudsman Rosen to give his attention to a critical letter from Bar-Menachem’s deputy, Attorney Moshe Sa’ada. In response to the Sandak family’s letter, Ombudsman Rosen leveled criticism at Bar-Menachem.

In the letter on behalf of the Sandak family, Yado cited a letter which Moshe Sa’ada, the Deputy Director of the PIU, sent to the Deputy Attorney General for Criminal Affairs, Shlomo (Mumi) Lemberger, in which he details the failures of the investigation. Sa’ada stated that the head of the PIU “canceled, with the wave of a hand, orders from the head of the investigating team, which were designed to prevent disruption of the investigation (after, in the opinion of the head of the team, the policemen intentionally delayed filing police action reports for five hours), and released the policemen, thereby increasing the potential for significant disruption [of the investigation].”

Response from Ombudsman Rosen, excerpt

Ombudsman Rosen determined that Bar-Menachem should have acted with due caution in light of the concerns which were raised regarding the ramming of the youths’ car by the police car among authorities in the PIU and also publications in the media, “and refrained from making the statement according to which the claim of an intentional car-ramming was not made on the evening of the incident, but rather the following day.”

Nevertheless Rosen emphasized that it is impossible to prove that Bar-Menachem knowingly distorted the facts.

According to testimony Bar-Menachem gave earlier regarding her conduct in the investigation, at the time of the incident she gave an order not to interrogate the policemen because she was not aware of any criminal charges against them (see here for more details). It should be noted that within several hours after the incident the media publicized that the police car had collided with the youths’ car and also publicized the testimony of the youths’ attorneys, who reported that the youths had said that ramming by the police car was what led to the lethal outcome of the accident. Bar-Menachem was of the opinion that the claims by the youths of their friend’s murder had been made due only to their heightened emotional state.

Avraham Sandak, Ahuvia’s father, said that Bar-Menachem’s conduct raises concern that the investigation of his son’s death has been whitewashed. Sandak repeated his demand for the policemen involved to stand trial: “The delicate criticism by Rosen indicates, like the tip of an iceberg, a serious professional failure by the head of the PIU. How can it be that she did not immediately initiate an investigation of the policemen after they were suspected of ramming the car in which our beloved son was a passenger!? This raises a significant suspicion of whitewashing and lack of integrity. It raises a cloud of doubt over the suitability of the head of the PIU for the job. It greatly damages the trust of the public in the police. The people expect the system to rectify its faults and not to cover up for policemen who did wrong. We are demanding something basic: At the very least the policemen should be put on trial.”

Scene of the accident

Immediately after the incident occurred, a traffic inspector was sent to the scene of the incident on behalf of the family. His expert opinion is that the police car intentionally collided with the youths’ car, which caused it to turn over, killing Sandak and injuring the other youths who were in the car. The policemen involved with the incident have not yet been put on trial. For details about a suspected police cover-up concerning the cause of Ahuvia’s death, including denial that the police car had hit the youths’ car, please click here: Ahuvia Sandak, z”l: “Making Sense of the Facts”.

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