Footage shows Israeli politicians pressured police to close case of Hassouna killing

Palestinians mourn during Moussa Hassouna's funeral in Lod-Lydda, who was shot by a Jewish far-right activist during protests and unrest the previous evening (Oren Ziv - ActiveStills)

MEE Staff

Middle East Eye  /  May 1, 2022

Legal centre appeals against lack of action on five Jewish-Israeli suspects following ‘inadequate’ investigation.

Political pressure was exerted on Israeli police as they conducted a “flawed” investigation into last year’s killing of Moussa Hassouna, a Palestinian citizen of Israel, the legal centre Adalah said in its appeal against a decision to close the case against five Jewish suspects.

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Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, filed the appeal on behalf of Hassouna’s family after a district attorney dropped the case against five Jewish-Israeli suspects in the killing in October 2021.

Hassouna, a 31-year-old Palestinian citizen of Israel, was killed in the mixed city of Lod/Lydda during clashes between Palestinians and Israeli far-right activists on 10 May last year. The violence had come as tensions spread across Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories over Israeli attacks on al-Aqsa Mosque and East Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood.

In its appeal to State Attorney Amit Isman, Adalah maintained that, based on investigatory material, the police had conducted a “negligent” and “flawed” investigation with the intent of closing the case against the right-wing suspects.

The legal centre also found footage in the investigation file signaling that political pressure was exerted on the investigation.

“Video footage and other materials found in the investigation files by Adalah also suggests that prominent political leaders unlawfully pressured the police throughout the investigation,” Adalah said in a press release published on Saturday. 

Adalah said it had also sent a letter to the attorney-general, Gali Baharav-Miara, demanding that a swift inquiry into the interference by political figures be initiated.

‘My last priority’

In the footage dated 12 May 2021, which Adalah published, one investigator says that the head of a weapons lab had refused to test weapons used by the suspects and quoted him as saying “the tests in this case are my last priority”.

In response, another investigator says: “Oh really? Let him tell that to the minister who is calling every 10 minutes to check on the status of the case.”

In a tweet that same day, the then minister of public security, Amir Ohana, called for the release of the suspects, saying they were law-abiding citizens who had acted in self-defence.

“The conduct of law enforcement authorities and political leaders, in this case, shows that these vigilante groups had their full support and were even seen as ‘force multiplier for the authorities,'” Adalah attorney Nareman Shehadeh-Zoabi said.

In its appeal, Adalah demanded that the state attorney reopen the investigation, which, it says, was inadequately performed. 

The police, it argued, did not undertake essential investigatory measures related to interrogation of the suspects, ballistic analysis, evidence collection and examination, analysis of the crime scene, and testimony gathering.

In October last year, Israel’s central district attorney’s office said that it was closing the investigation into Hassouna’s killing based on a lack of evidence and the suspects’ accounts, claiming that they opened fire in “self-defence”.

Adalah said the police have exclusively relied on statements by Jewish-Israelis to establish the chain of events, and did not gather testimony from any of the Palestinian witnesses.

“This unjust decision gives legitimacy to the crimes of Jewish terrorist militias and encourages them to kill and abuse Arabs under the protection of the official apparatus of the state,” a Palestinian public committee in Lod said in a statement following the closure of the investigation.

Khaled Zabarqa, a lawyer and member of the committee, told Middle East Eye at the time that the decision to close the case had shattered Hassouna’s family and left them feeling “like their son was killed again”.