Israel prepares indictments for the death of a Palestinian-American
JERUSALEM (AP) — The Israeli military on Thursday decided to indict two commanders in the death of a 78-year-old Palestinian-American who was dragged from a car, bound and blindfolded after being arrested at a checkpoint.
The Israeli army nevertheless played down the role of the two commanders in the death of Omar Assad, saying that it was “not possible to establish a correlation” between their conduct and his brutal death, without further details.
Israel has been criticized by human rights groups who say it rarely holds soldiers responsible for the deaths of Palestinians in the occupied West Bank.
The case of Assad, who lived for four decades in the United States before returning to his Palestinian hometown of Jiljilya in 2009, has drawn intense scrutiny from the international community. His family still living in the United States demanded a US investigation, as did several members of Congress.
After opening a criminal investigation to clarify the circumstances of his death, the military judicial authority informed the lawyers of the two officers on Thursday that it was preparing to indict them for their misconduct, the army said. The accused officers, one who commanded the force at the checkpoint where Assad was being held and the other in charge of guarding the detainees, have the right to be heard first.
Questions remain about what happened to Assad after he was arrested by Israeli forces at a West Bank checkpoint in January. The Israeli army said soldiers thought he was sleeping when they undid his hands and left him face down in an abandoned building where he had been held with three other Palestinians.
He was pronounced dead in a hospital after other Palestinians who had been detained found him unconscious. A Palestinian autopsy showed he died of a heart attack from injuries sustained while in custody.
The IDF reprimands a senior officer and removes two others from their leadership positions after concluding that Assad’s death was the result of “moral failure and poor decision-making on the part of the soldiers” – a rare acknowledgment of error.
Palestinians say they suffer systematic mistreatment under military occupation. Israeli rights group B’Tselem says it is tracking more than two dozen open investigations into the killings Palestinians in the West Bank. Even in the most shocking cases – and those captured on video – Israeli soldiers are often given relatively light sentences.