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Israeli policemen charged with assaulting Palestinians, obstruction of justice

12:00 Oct 29 2012 near Kibbutz Netiv HaLamed-Heh

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In one case, 23-year old officer Moshe Lama assaulted a handcuffed Palestinian man and told his colleagues not to disclose a true account of the events.

By Oz Rosenberg for Haaretz

In two separate cases, three Border Policeman have been charged with assaulting Palestinians and conspiracy to cover up their actions. The charges were filed recently by the Justice Ministry's Department for the Investigation of Police Officers.

The first of the two indictments concerns a July 2010 attack on a Palestinian employed in an orchard near Kibbutz Netiv HaLamed-Heh, in central Israel.

According to the indictment, a group of Border Policeman searching for Palestinians working in Israel illegally arrived at the orchard. The claimant, Mohammad Assam, a resident of Yatta in the South Hebron Hills, was one of several laborers there at the time picking almonds.

Upon entering the orchard, the Border Policemen – some of whome were not in full uniform - allegedly approached the ladder on which Assam was standing and one of them tried to make him fall by shaking the ladder. Assam tried to keep his balance but in the end was thrown off. One of the officers accused of attacking Assam, Moshe Lama, 23, of Ashdod, was not in full uniform at the time.

Since the Border Policemen were not in full uniform, according to the indictment, Assam thought they were civilians trying to harm him. He made a run for it, fleeing deeper into the orchard. Lama shot into the air with his pistol, while other officers chased after Assam until they caught him and threw him down. One of them handcuffed him and left him lying on the ground. Lama then reportedly kicked Assam hard, fracturing his pelvis.

“Lama’s criminal conduct didn’t end there,” the indictment reads. In a summary of the operation, Lama allegedly omitted any mention of firing in the air and told his colleagues not to disclose to anyone that shots had been fire.

Lama is charged with assault leading to injury, subornation of perjury and obstruction of justice.

The second indictment was filed on Monday against Border Policemen Omri Cohen, 23, of Tirat Hacarmel and Danny Abara, 22, of Kiryat Ata, both stationed in Jerusalem’s Old City.

According to the indictment, one morning in late October 2010, Cohen and Abara encountered Barafat Ajloni, a resident of East Jerusalem, while they were on patrol near the Old City's Lions Gate. Abara asked Ajloni for his I.D. card, and then told him he would need to be searched and told him to accompany them to a nearby cemetery.

Ajloni went with them to the cemetery, where Abara told him to face the wall and began to conduct a body search, handing his M-16 assault rifle to Cohen. After a few minutes, Ajloni complained that Abara’s search was too invasive and that Abara was simply trying to harass him.

Upon hearing this, the indictment says Abara swung Ajloni around and grabbed him forcefully by the face, saying, “Don’t make a scene.” Ajloni tried to resist and push Abara’s hands off his face, when Cohen hit Ajloni in the face with the butt of Abara's rifle. Ajloni, bleeding, fell to the ground, later requiring stitches.

Cohen and Abara handcuffed Ajloni and brought him to the David Police Station in the Old City, charging him with attacking a policeman and insulting a public servant. The indictment against them says they filed false reports about the incident, saying that Ajloni had attacked them and slapped Abara while being searched, and that they had tried to get him under control by pushing him against the cemetery wall. According to the indictment, they claimed Ajloni was injured during the scuffle.

The two conspired to repeat their story in subsequent investigations by the police and Justice Ministry representatives. However, in the course of their inquiries, Justice Ministry investigators sensed something was amiss, and eventually arrived at the truth. They cleared Ajloni of all counts and charged Abara and Cohen with obstruction of justice and false reporting. For the gratuitous violence against Ajloni, the two were also charged with assault leading to injury.

The Border Police issued the following response: “We’re talking about exceptional cases that do not represent the extensive activity Border Police fighters engage in for the security of the State of Israel. At the instruction of the human resources branch, the policemen involved were immediately suspended and no longer serve in the corps. It’s important to stress that the Border Police rejects and views gravely any behavior by policemen that contradicts the values to which the Israel Police is committed.”
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