Israeli officer involved in killing of autistic Palestinian man brought to trial

The accused officer faces the watered down charge of “reckless manslaughter”, despite the victim’s family as well as several politicians calling for the accused to face the more serious charge of murder

February 28, 2022 by Peoples Dispatch
Iyad al-Hallaq, aged 32, was shot multiple times by Israeli border police at a checkpoint in the old city in occupied East Jerusalem in May 2020. Photo: Archive

The trial of an Israeli police officer accused of killing Iyad al-Hallaq, a 32-year old autistic Palestinian man, in 2020 finally commenced on Sunday, February 27. According to a report by Al-Araby, the accused officer was brought into the courtroom with his face covered and made to sit behind a screen in order to conceal his identity. The trial began amidst protests outside the Jerusalem District Court by right-wing Israelis, including several politicians, who deemed the officer a “hero”.

The next hearing in the case is set to be held on May 9. The accused officer has been charged with “reckless manslaughter”, as opposed to the more serious charge of murder which the family of the victim Iyad al-Hallaq had demanded. This decision was made as a product of an internal investigation by the police department. If convicted, the officer faces the prospect of being awarded a maximum 12-year prison sentence.

Iyad al-Hallaq, who suffered from autism, was on his way to his special-needs school on May 30, 2020 in occupied East Jerusalem when he was shot multiple times near a police checkpoint by Israeli border police. He was reportedly shot more than ten times by the police who chased him down as he was scared and running away from them. The officers involved in the incident claimed that they suspected he was carrying a gun, and one of the officers reportedly continued shooting at him even after his senior officer ordered him to stop. Iyad was subsequently left lying on the ground bleeding with no medical assistance provided to him because of which he eventually died. Following the uproar and outrage about the killing of Iyad, Israeli security forces also raided the Hallaq family home and abused and harassed his family members and relatives.

Iyad’s killing had led to widespread protests in Palestine against the systemic and premeditated violence committed by Israeli forces against Palestinians, as well as the impunity they enjoy in the aftermath. Many protesters at the time used the slogan “Palestinian Lives Matter”, inspired by the Black Lives Matter protests in the US taking place simultaneously following the killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis on May 25, 2020.

Palestinian leaders in the occupied West Bank and Gaza as well as Palestinian members of the Israeli Knesset had denounced the killing and called for justice for Iyad. They also pointed out the double standards and anti-Palestinian racism and discrimination which was an important factor in scores of similar killings as well as the broader dehumanization of Palestinians which still continues to this day unabated.

Israeli human rights group, B’Tselem criticized the policy whereby which security personnel are largely given a free hand to oppress and violently attack Palestinians living under the Israeli occupation: “this policy is backed by the most senior ranking military and government officials who do nothing do change it, despite the lethal results.” Countless other Palestinians have also been killed in similar fashion in the last two years since Iyad’s killing, making it clear that Israel has no intentions to end this policy of violence and repression.