HAIFA, Sunday, May 01, 2022 (WAFA) - Adalah - The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, said today it filed an appeal on behalf of the family of Mussa Hassouna, a 31-year-old Palestinian citizen of Israel, who was shot dead during the May 2021 events by a Jewish-Israeli citizen in Lod on the night between 10 and 11 May 2021.
The rights group said it filed the appeal to State Attorney Amit Isman, after the District Attorney for the Central Region decided in October 2021 to close the investigation against all five Jewish-Israeli suspects in the killing.
On 13 May 2021, less than three days after the shooting, in which Hassouna was instantly killed and two other Palestinian citizens of Israel were injured, the police released all the suspects before a ballistic analysis was produced. On 21 October 2021, the District Attorney’s office closed the cases against all five suspects. The decision on the closure of the cases was the first time the District Attorney provided any information to Hassouna’s family, despite their repeated requests.
In the appeal, Adalah Attorney Nareman Shehadeh-Zoabi argued that the investigatory material indicates that the Israeli police conducted a negligent, flawed investigation with the ultimate aim of clearing the suspects of any charge. Video footage and other materials found in the investigation files by Adalah also suggests that prominent political leaders unlawfully pressured the police throughout the investigation.
According to the investigative materials, there were six shooters, some of whom arrived for a protest organized by the ‘Garin Torani’ – a cell of the settler movement that seeks to further Judaize Israel’s “mixed cities”. Others arrived after messages were sent in the neighborhood’s WhatsApp groups for all residents with weapons to come down to the street. They shot approximately 40 bullets within 15-20 minutes.
In its appeal, Adalah argued that the investigatory material raises serious suspicions that the police investigators were under political pressure, which altered the course of the investigation and its results.
In a filmed conversation between investigators accidentally recorded after an interrogation ended, dated 12 May 2021, one of the investigators complains that the head of a weapons lab refused to test weapons used by the suspects, and he criticizes the classification of the case as a murder case. In response, another investigator answered, “Oh really? Let him tell that to the Minister who is calling every ten minutes to check on the status of the case.”
The then-Minister of Public Security, Amir Ohana, also posted on Twitter on 12 May 2021, (the same day in which the video was taken) a call for the release of the suspects: “The arrest of the shooter and his friends in Lod, who acted in self-defense, is terrible. Law-abiding citizens carrying weapons are a force multiplier for the authorities for the immediate neutralization of threat and danger. The detention/release is not under the purview of the Minister of Public Security; if that were the case, they would have been released. The enforcement system will do well if it does the same."
Adalah argued that the self-defense claims relied on by the State Attorney to justify the closure of the cases, must be assessed by judicial rather than law enforcement authorities.
Adalah further contended that self-defense claims were not reasonable as the suspects did not face an imminent threat; according to their testimonies, prior to the shooting, they gathered to discuss how they should “operate the incident” until police arrived. Their conduct suggests that the suspects took the law into their own hands and acted as law enforcement until police arrived, which cannot be considered as acting in self-defense.
Adalah’s appeal demanded that the State Attorney reopen the investigation against all five suspects and conduct a thorough, adequate investigation. Additionally, Adalah demanded to investigate and prosecute public figures who were present at the scene of the incident and did not act to prevent the killing, including Lod’s Deputy Mayor and City Manager in the Lod municipality, responsible for “security at times of emergency”.
Alternatively, Adalah requested that the suspects be prosecuted based on the evidence collected thus far, which is sufficient for prosecution.