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Judge slams attempt to blame Palestinian for death of brother-in-law killed by Israeli police

Sept. 12, 2016 10:55 P.M. (Updated: Sept. 13, 2016 10:52 P.M.)
Locals inspect the car of Ali Nimr, accused of manslaughter for the death of his brother in law who was shot dead by Israeli police on Sep. 9
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- An Israeli judge harshly criticized Israeli police on Monday for their attempt to blame Ali Nimr for the death of his brother-in-law Mustafa Nimr, who was shot dead by Israeli forces earlier this month.

The judge however agreed to extend Ali’s detention sentence, as he stands accused by Israeli police for manslaughter, involuntary manslaughter, driving without a license, driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol, and endangering lives.

Ali Nimr, 25, was also shot and injured during the incident, when Israeli border police showered his vehicle with live fire as he was driving near clashes outside of Shufat refugee camp, with Mustafa in the passenger’s seat, while the two were bringing home food and baby clothes.

Israeli police initially claimed that the two were attempting to carry out a car ramming attack on Israeli officers, though Israeli authorities later summoned Mustafa Nimr’s parents to tell them that the 27-year-old was “killed by mistake.”

The next day, an Israeli police spokesperson announced that Ali Nimr was suspected by Israeli police of causing Mustafa’s death by driving negligently which prompted Israeli forces to open fire on the vehicle.

According to Israeli newspaper Times of Israel, during the hearing at the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court on Monday, judge David Shaul Gabai Richter slammed the Israeli police for their attempt to try Ali for manslaughter.

However, Richter approved the police request to extend Ali’s remand for one day and also accused the police of not investigating the shooting seriously since the previous court session.

The judge reportedly ruled last week that there was no probable cause supporting the police allegations that Ali committed manslaughter.

“I fail to understand how the same charges were included in this [remand] request, despite my saying last time that there are no grounds to charge the defendant with manslaughter or involuntary manslaughter,” Times of Israel quoted the judge as saying.

Richter also noted the preliminary autopsy results appeared to indicate Mustafa’s death was caused by the shooting, not Ali’s driving.

“The defendant has certain responsibilities to refrain from drugs and alcohol while driving. But in my opinion, there is considerable distance between the behavior of the defendant and the outcome of the incident in which his cousin was killed,” the judge said. “And I therefore believe there is no basis to accuse him for the death.”

Eyewitnesses to the incident told Ma’an at the time they saw Ali’s car driving at “medium speed” through clashes between Israeli forces and local youth, after which dozens of Israeli officers surrounded the vehicle and opened heavy fire.

After being showered with live ammunition, Ali, lost control of the car, which swerved to the side and crashed into a parked car.

After the car crashed into the parked car, witnesses said they saw one Israeli officer open the driver side door and demand that Ali, who had just been shot, step outside while threatening to shoot him again.

“Israeli soldiers pushed him on the ground, ordered him to take his pants off, and searched him, despite his injuries,” an eyewitnesses recalled.

She said that Mustafa’s dead body was left sitting in the front passenger's seat while Ali was left injured on the ground for 30 minutes without being provided medical care, before two Israeli military vehicles arrived at the scene. One military vehicle took Mustafa’s body, while the other evacuated Ali.

A video from the scene broadcast by Channel 10 news has also cast some suspicion on the police officers’ claims. In the footage, the officers could be seen shooting at the vehicle after it had already stopped.

Fifteen-year-old Mahmoud Raafat Badran was killed in similar circumstances to Mustafa in June, when Israeli soldiers “showered" the vehicle he was traveling in with live fire while he and his friends were driving near a stone throwing incident.

Despite Israeli police later admitting to "mistakenly" killing the teenager who had nothing to do with the stone-throwing, Israel’s Foreign Ministry said: “If it were not for the difficult security situation, which is entirely the result of incitement and Palestinian terror, Israel would not be forced to use force in order to protect its civilians.”

In July, 22-year-old Anwar Falah al-Salaymeh was also shot and killed by Israeli forces when he and two friends were driving and stumbled upon an ongoing Israeli army raid.

Mustafa Nimr’s death also comes amid a recent report by the Palestinian NGO BADIL warning of an intensification of the “systematic targeting” of Palestinian youth -- particularly in refugee camps -- in the occupied Palestinian territory since the beginning of 2016.

“This targeting has taken the form of injuries and arbitrary killings by the use of live ammunition by the Israeli army in the context of arrest campaigns, military raids, and random wide searches which usually trigger clashes,” the statement said.

BADIL's initial investigations into the trend focused on the southern occupied West Bank district of Bethlehem, where at least 83 people have been shot with live ammunition since the beginning of the year.

BADIL’s statement also highlighted a recent Israeli military incursion in the Hebron-area refugee camp al-Fawwar that lasted some 20 hours, during which an unarmed Palestinian teen was shot dead and dozens others were hospitalized.

“The escalating use of excessive force against Palestinians by Israel is alarming and illegal, as under international law,” BADIL said in their statement.

“Providing that the Israeli military forces are not the initiators, the use of firearms is only permitted as a last resort in cases of imminent threat of death or serious injury or for self-defense, and the use of force must be strictly necessary and proportionate. Moreover, firearms should only be used when other measures have proved insufficient.”
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