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Israeli Officer Who Killed Autistic Palestinian in 2020 Acquitted

12:00 Jul 6 2023 Israel's Magistrate Court, West Jerusalem

Israeli Officer Who Killed Autistic Palestinian in 2020 Acquitted Israeli Officer Who Killed Autistic Palestinian in 2020 Acquitted
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Photos:
The policeman who shot Eyad al-Hallaq, at the Jerusalem District Court, on Thursday. Credit: Sharia Diamant Published by Haaretz

The parents of Eyad al-Hallaq holding his photo, in 2020. Credit: Mahmoud Illean / AP Published by Haaretz
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The officer told the Jerusalem District Court earlier this year that he was certain 32-year-old Eyad al-Hallaq was a terrorist on a shooting spree and was about to murder a woman, who was later revealed to be al-Hallaq’s school counselor

by Josh Breiner for Haaretz
Jul 6, 2023

Jerusalem's District Court acquitted on Thursday the police officer who fatally shot Eyad al-Hallaq, a 32-year-old autistic Palestinian man in East Jerusalem, in 2020.

The judges accepted the officer's claim of self-defense "due to a mistake in where things stand." The court also ruled that the officer made "an honest mistake [believing] he was faced with an armed terrorist" and "didn’t know Eyad was an innocent man with special needs."

After the sentence was read in court, al-Hallaq's parents expressed their shock and dismay. His father said the result was a "disgrace," and that there is "one justice [system] for Jews and another for Arabs," while his mother cried out "You are all terrorists! My son is under the ground!"

Itamar Ben-Gvir, Israel's far-right national security minister, applauded the sentence in a statement, saying that the "hero soldiers who protect the State of Israel with their lives will get a hug and full backing from me and from the Israeli government."

The commander of Israel's Border Police, Amir Cohen, also welcomed the verdict, saying that the officer will return to border police and go to a commanders' course in a few weeks. Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai said in a statement that he believes that the court was right in its decision, and that he supported the police officer throughout the legal process.

The officer, whose name is barred from publication, was indicted for reckless homicide when the trial began last year. This past February, the officer told the Jerusalem District Court that he was certain al-Hallaq was a terrorist on a shooting spree and was about to murder a woman, who was later revealed to be the al-Hallaq’s school counselor.

In his testimony, the defendant said that after he entered a shed used for storing trash, where al-Hallaq had fled while being pursued by police, he heard a woman’s screams. “From where I stood, the terrorist was about to murder the woman. There was awful screaming,” he said. “As I saw it, I was saving this woman,” the officer added.

“The entire incident lasted a few seconds, that’s my sense.” The defendant told the court: “Only during the internal investigation did I learn that [the victim] was a man with special needs and not a terrorist.”

The officer testified that it was the first time he had been involved in such an incident on the job. “We were on high alert because of Ramadan and were told something could happen in a place least expected… I was a rookie and my commander was everything to me.”

According to the indictment, al-Hallaq was on his way to his special needs school in May 2020 wearing a black mask and gloves. The police officers in the area began to suspect he was planning to carry out an attack after he stopped several times and looked backwards.

The indictment alleged that one of the officers reported over the radio that there was a terrorist in the area and began pursuing al-Hallaq, who tried to hide in a garbage shed nearby. The officer and his commander entered after shooting at him while they were in pursuit.

Al-Hallaq’s counselor, Warda Abu Hadid, who was with him in the shed when he was shot, said she tried to protect him but that the police officers ignored her when she told them he had special needs.

Abu Hadid testified during the trial that “They [the soldiers] said from the outside, ‘It’s a terrorist,’ and again when they entered the room said, ‘It’s a terrorist,’ but I wasn’t paying attention to who said it. I screamed as loud as I could so that Eyad wouldn’t get shot.”
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