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Family of slain Palestinian teacher demands investigation into his death

Jan. 19, 2017 10:40 P.M. (Updated: Jan. 22, 2017 6:39 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- The family of Yaqoub Moussa Abu al-Qian, a math teacher and Palestinian citizen of Israel who was shot dead by Israeli police on Wednesday, demanded on Thursday that Israeli police open an investigation into his death.

NGO Adalah -- The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, which is representing Abu al-Qian’s family -- released a statement on Thursday demanding an investigation be opened into the circumstances of the death of Abu al-Qian, who Adalah said was 50-years-old, though earlier reports claimed he was 47-years-old.

Israeli police claimed that the math teacher was carrying out a vehicular attack which killed police officer Erez Levi, 34, though a number of witnesses and Palestinian officials with Israeli citizenship have disputed Israeli security forces’ version of events, saying that police officers opened fire on Abu al-Qian despite him not representing a threat, causing him to lose control of his vehicle and fatally hit Levi.

Israeli Knesset member Talab Abu Arar said that the police killed Abu al-Qian “in cold blood," Israeli news site Ynet quoted him as saying. "The police shot him for no reason. The claims that he tried to run over police are not true.”

Abu Al-Qian was killed while he was driving through the Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran during Israeli preparations for large-scale home demolition that turned into violent clashes throughout Wednesday, as Israeli forces used sponge-tipped bullets, tear gas, and stun grenades to violently suppress locals and supporters who had gathered to resist the demolitions.

Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld wrote in a statement that “a vehicle driven by a terrorist from the Islamic Movement intended to strike a number officers and carry out an attack,” and that police officers responded by shooting and killing the driver.

One village resident told Israeli news website Ynet that police “suddenly came without warning, threw me on the floor and shot me in the leg. My uncle, who they are saying is a terrorist, is a teacher in a school … He was in his car on a regular journey and signaled.”

Eyewitnesses also confirmed to Adalah
that Abu al-Qian was trying to leave the village and lost control of his car only after police fired at him.

In Thursday’s statement, Adalah said that Abu al-Qian’s parents requested that the NGO represent the family and demand that the Israeli Justice Ministry's Police Investigations Division, ‘Mahash’, investigate the circumstances of their son's death.

According to the Adalah, the group’s attorneys sent a letter to Mahash late Wednesday arguing that police video footage of the incident and eyewitness testimony reveal that police opened fire on Abu Al-Qian's vehicle before he accelerated in the direction of officers. “This totally contradicts police claims that Abu Al Qi'an sought to ‘ram’ them with his vehicle,” the statement said.

Adalah also emphasized that, according to witnesses, police officers prevented an ambulance from approaching the scene and paramedics from treating Abu Al-Qian for three hours following the shooting.

"This fact alone suggests police forces violated the law and raises questions about the credibility of police testimony regarding the unfolding of events during the course of the incident," Adalah asserted.

The group’s attorney’s further stressed that Israeli officers in Umm al-Hiran “failed to act in accordance with police regulations governing the use of firearms, which state that officers may open fire only as a last resort, and in order to prevent immediate danger.”

Adalah demanded "immediate action to conduct an autopsy of the deceased without delay and before burial. We likewise request that an autopsy be conducted on the body of the police officer who was killed, apparently when he was hit by Abu Al-Qian's vehicle."
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