Trial Opens against Cop for Killing Special Needs Occupied East Jerusalem Palestinian

The trial of a policeman for killing of occupied East Jerusalem special-needs resident opened on Sunday in the Jerusalem District Court. Iyad al-Hallaq, a 32-year-old Palestinian, was shot and killed by an Israeli cop in Jerusalem’s Old City while on his way to his special needs school in May 2020. Dozens protested against occupation and in solidarity with al-Hallaq family outside the Jerusalem District Court.

“Justice for Iyad”, Israeli demonstrators in Jerusalem, October 2020 (Photo: Free Jerusalem)

The Police Investigations Department (PID) filed an indictment against the policeman, whose name is under gag order, in June 2021 for second-degree murder, something it had hinted at as early as October 2020.

The shooting of Palestinian al-Hallaq led to massive protests and criticism of the police, with even then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu admitting that “it was a mistake.” The question had been whether PID would decide to indict the police officerwho killed al-Hallaq for anything from murder to manslaughter to negligent homicide, or even close the case. Based on how reasonable or unreasonable it was for the shooter to believe that the unarmed Halak was a threat.

PID decision on October 2020 not to charging al-Hallaq with murder drew criticism from human rights organization as ACRI and Adalah as well as MKs of the Joint List. Protesters demanding justice for al-Hallaq circled the courthouse on Sunday. They said that the circumstances were so blatant that Israel should not be praised for charging the policeman with an equivalent of second-degree murder. Moreover, they accused Israel of having failed to charge dozens of others in recent years who illegally killed Palestinians or Arabs-Palestinian citizens of Israel, using an overbroad justification of empowering soldiers to defend themselves – even when there was no danger.

There was also a clear undertone of mistrust that between now and the verdict, the charges will be reduced, as has occurred in other cases. Finally, there is suspicion that the absence of video footage of the actual shooting is part of a cover-up, though the Justice Ministry said that the video camera in the garbage room had been disconnected a full day before the spontaneous-occurring incident.