Israeli police officer who killed Iyad-al-Hallaq acquitted

Iyad-al-Hallaq, a 32-year-old Palestinian man with autism, was killed by an Israeli border police officer while he was on his way to school in May 2020. A court has concluded that the officer had acted in self-defense

July 07, 2023 by Peoples Dispatch
Eyad al-Hallaq’s killer acquitted
(Photo: Abedalrahman Hassan/ApaImages)

An Israeli border police officer who killed a Palestinian man with autism three years ago has been acquitted by a court, according to multiple news reports on Thursday, July 6. Iyad-al-Hallaq, 32, was killed by a barrage of bullets fired by the officer, whose name has been withheld, while he was on his way to school. The killing took place near an Israeli checkpoint in the old city area in the eastern part of Jerusalem on May 30, 2020. 

Iyad’s death had sparked massive outrage and widespread protests in Palestine and elsewhere, with calls for accountability and justice coming from around the world.

The ruling by the Jerusalem District Court absolved the officer after reasoning that he had acted in self-defense. The court said that the killing was a “tragic mistake,” but the officer had acted in “good faith” as he had mistakenly believed Iyad to be an armed terrorist. It ruled that even though the officer had acted recklessly, he was not guilty of any wrongdoing. 

According to eyewitnesses of the killing, Iyad had clearly been holding gloves and a mask instead of a suspicious object resembling a pistol as initially claimed by the Israeli authorities. The police had later changed their story and claimed that he was carrying a toy gun. The officer reportedly also ignored multiple pleas by Iyad’s counselor who was present at the scene and tried to inform the police that Iyad was a person with disability and not an attacker or terrorist.

Iyad’s family has expressed shock at the acquittal and resolved to pursue further legal action to obtain justice. The family’s lawyer, Omar Khamasya, told news outlets in a statement that “this is not a fair trial. The court absolved the murderer of his crime and accepted his claim that he killed Iyad in ‘self-defense,’ while there was no motive or justification for the shooting based on suspicion only.” Khamasya said that “There is no justice when the victim is Palestinian and the perpetrator is Jewish.” Reports noted that before the acquittal, the officer had been charged with reckless manslaughter in 2021 after an internal investigation was carried out by the police.

The Palestinian Foreign Ministry also condemned the ruling in a statement saying that “the so-called courts and judicial system in Israel are an integral part of the occupation system itself.” Israeli human rights groups B’Tselem also denounced the verdict. Its spokesperson Dror Sadot said that “this is just one of many cases in which Israel whitewashes the killing of Palestinians. When it comes to the unjustified killing of Palestinians by Israeli forces, the policy is impunity.” 

Palestinians and various rights groups have for long highlighted the double standards adopted by the Israeli state and its judicial system towards crimes committed by Israeli security forces and citizens and those committed by Palestinians. The leniency shown in investigating, prosecuting and punishing crimes by Israelis has been repeatedly called into question as in most cases, perpetrators of even serious and heinous crimes such as murder and arson have been cleared. Meanwhile, Palestinians accused of crimes often see even their homes demolished, a policy of collective punishment pursued by Israel.