The Public Committee against Torture in Israel (PCATI) and Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel – have asked the Justice Ministry’s Police Investigations Division (Mahash) to investigate the circumstances of the wounding of MK Ayman Odeh (Hadash – Joint List) by the police in Umm al-Hiran on January 18, 2017.
MK Odeh, chairman of the Joint List, suffered wounds to the head and back wound when he was attacked by Israeli police officers during a protest against a violent house demolition operation in the southern Bedouin village after 47-year-old resident Ya’akub Musa Abu Al-Qee’an was killed in a police shooting incident in the same location. In their letter to Mahash, PCATI Attorney Noa Levy and Adalah Attorney Nadeem Shehadeh explain that when MK Odeh and activists heard the sound of live gunfire they sought to make their way towards the scene of the shooting in order to understand what was happening. However, they were blocked by police officers who cursed and struck them even after it was made clear that a Knesset member was among the group. One officer sprayed MK Odeh in the face with pepper spray at point blank range.
Subsequently, as MK Odeh and the activists were retreating from the village, police fired sponge-tipped bullets and illumination flares at them, at which time MK Odeh was struck in the head and back. The photographs of his wounds which were included in the letter Adalah and PCATI send to Mahash, appear to match the sort of wound caused by a sponge-tipped bullet. Sponge-tipped bullets were later found in the area where MK Odeh and the activists were standing during the incident.
The following day, January 19, 2017, MK Odeh was examined at the Abu Kabir Forensic Institute in an effort to determine if he was indeed struck by the police-fired projectiles. In the PCATI-Adalah letter, Attorneys Levy and Shehadeh stress that accounts of the incident clearly indicate a direct attack on a sitting member of Knesset. “The acts described above indicate unlawful excessive use of force and unlawful use of weapons. The police officers’ actions violated Israeli laws [and police regulations], as well as the Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty.”
PCATI and Adalah demand that Mahash immediately open a criminal investigation against all officers involved in this incident, and also request a probe of the police spokesperson unit for incitement. “The police’s release of utterly baseless claims maintaining that MK Odeh was hit by stone throwers, and that he was involved in or assisted in the alleged car-ramming attack, is deceitful and borders on incitement.”