An Israeli policeman has been charged with manslaughter over the killing of an autistic Palestinian man in Jerusalem over a year ago, the country’s Justice Ministry has said. He faces up to 12 years in jail if found guilty.
The charges were announced by the Justice Ministry in a statement on Thursday. The officer who allegedly chased, shot and killed 32-year-old Palestinian Iyad Halaq has not been officially named due to privacy reasons.
The tragic incident occurred in Jerusalem’s Old City on May 20 last year. The autistic man was heading to a special needs school, where he volunteered, when he was confronted by Israeli police officers who were manning a checkpoint. According to the indictment, the police spotted Halaq as he was walking past the checkpoint, wearing a coronavirus mask and gloves, and allegedly suspecting him of carrying a weapon.
The officers ordered the man to stop both in Arabic and Hebrew, however, Halaq took fright and fled, with two border police officers in pursuit, the Justice Department said in its statement. They allegedly cornered the autistic man in a garbage storage area with the junior officer shooting him in the abdomen.
As the victim collapsed to the ground, the statement added, one of the officers asked Halaq where the gun was, with the wounded man pointing at a woman he knew who happened to be nearby. One of the officers addressed the same question to the woman, who replied only “What gun?” At the very same moment, the defendant fired again at Halaq who was lying on the ground and killed him.
At the time of the shooting, the autistic man was “holding nothing in his hands and doing nothing that justified it, the defendant fired at his upper torso thereby taking an unreasonable risk that he will cause Iyad’s death,” the indictment said. No charges have been brought against the officer’s superior.
Halaq’s family was not pleased with the fact that only one officer is facing prosecution, and demanded charges be brought against other policemen involved in the fatal incident.
“Nothing will bring us justice. Nothing will bring my son back to life,” Halaq’s mother, Rana, told Reuters.
Other officers were involved in killing him. Where are their charges? It was not hard to see that my son was disabled. Everyone could see that.
The incident caused uproar among Palestinians, sparking mass protests in the aftermath and drawing widespread condemnation. The heavy-handed policing by Israel’s paramilitary law enforcement has also repeatedly drawn criticism from numerous rights groups, who have accused the forces of discriminating against Palestinians.