More than a year after the killing of a 32-year-old autistic Palestinian man, Iyad al-Halak, one of the Israeli police officers who shot him will be charged with “reckless manslaughter,” multiple news sources reported on Thursday, June 17. Prosecutors have charged the unidentified officer in the indictment submitted to the Jerusalem District Court, and if convicted, he could face up to 12 years in prison. However, Halak’s family condemned the lenient charges and demanded more serious charges be brought against the officers involved in the killing.
The prosecutors, in a statement, said that the decision to charge the officer was taken after “deep examination of the evidence, examination of all the circumstances of the incident and the claims heard during the officer’s hearing.” They called the killing a “serious and unfortunate incident” and noted that the officer “took an unreasonable risk that would cause his death.”
Halak was killed on May 30, 2020 while he was walking towards a school that he attended in the old city of occupied East Jerusalem. Israeli policemen stationed at the checkpoint in the area reportedly chased after him and ordered him to stop and identify himself. In a fit of panic, Halak started running and two of the officers shot at his legs and stomach. He then fell to the ground near a garbage storage area and lay bleeding when the officer in question shot him in the chest, leading to his death. The group of officers involved in the killing later claimed that they suspected Halak of possessing a weapon, even though they were told by his teacher who was also present at the scene that he was unarmed.
Activists and human rights groups have repeatedly raised concerns about the whitewashing of the killings of Palestinians by the Israeli police and security forces. Most guilty officers escape punishment or serious prosecution, while a few have been internally disciplined or given light punishments like community service.
The head of the Joint List of Arab parties in the Israeli parliament, Ayman Odeh, denounced the charge of reckless manslaughter brought against the officer responsible for killing Halak, calling it an “infuriating and denigrating charge” which has been watered down and does not accurately reflect the seriousness of the crime.
Responding to the news of the officer’s indictment, Halak’s mother told reporters, “nothing will bring us justice, nothing will bring my son back to life. 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.” Halak’s father demanded equal treatment under the law for Palestinians, saying that “in this country, there is a clear difference between being Arab or Jewish.” The family had previously expressed concern that the indicted officer could escape punishment since the Israeli authorities in the aftermath of the killing had refused to publicly reveal the camera footage of the incident. The authorities claimed that there had been a camera malfunction even though there were at least 10 CCTV cameras installed in the area. The Halak family has accused the police of deliberately “destroying cameras” to get rid of credible video evidence of Halak’s killing.