7 cops to be charged for allegedly branding Palestinian with Star of David

Officers to be charged with abuse and assault over 2023 incident in East Jerusalem, as well as possibly for deleting footage of altercation during arrest

Arwah Sheikh Ali after his arrest, August 20, 2023. (Courtesy)
Arwah Sheikh Ali after his arrest, August 20, 2023. (Courtesy)

The Department of Internal Police Investigations (DIPI) said Tuesday that it had recently notified seven police officers that they would be charged in a 2023 incident in which a Star of David was allegedly branded on the face of an East Jerusalem resident during his arrest.

According to a statement from DIPI, the seven cops were slated to be indicted on varying charges of abuse of a helpless person, aggravated assault, obstruction of investigative proceedings, and abuse of official power.

Not all seven officers were set to be charged with all of those offenses, and it was unclear what would be decided regarding nine other cops who also took part in the August 2023 arrest of 22-year-old Arwah Sheikh Ali.

In the incident, the East Jerusalem Palestinian claimed that police officers had beat him and branded his face with a Star of David while arresting him for suspected drug trafficking.

Ali filed an official complaint to the Justice Ministry’s DIPI several days after the arrest, which made headlines over its apparent brutal nature.

“A police officer put a taser to my head. I felt something hot on my face. These are not police — this is the mafia,” Ali, a resident of the Shuafat refugee camp, told the Ynet news site after filing the complaint.

Ali claimed the officers had covered his eyes and bound his hands and feet before branding his left cheek as they violently arrested him at home for suspected drug trafficking. He also told reporters his wife and kids were present.

Arwah Sheikh Ali, who alleges police branded him with a Star of David as he was being arrested in East Jerusalem’s Shuafat refugee camp, files a complaint at the Justice Ministry’s Police Internal Investigations Department, on August 22, 2023. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

Police claim the mark on Ali’s face was caused by the laced-up part of an officer’s boot being pressed against his face while they subdued him.

Responding to the allegations of brutality, police have denied any racial animus for the officers’ actions and accused Ali of violently resisting arrest.

Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court Judge Amir Shaked said during one of Ali’s remand hearings that police have “no reasonable explanation” for how the bruises appeared. He also said police have no explanation for why bodycams were not working on all 16 officers who allegedly participated in the arrest.

DIPI initially believed that there was no footage of the arrest, since all the officers had their body cameras turned off during the incident.

However, investigators later reportedly uncovered footage from the arrest taken from the cellphones of some of the officers, believing that there had been additional footage but that it was deleted from the cellphones and GoPro cameras of a handful of the officers involved.

Six of the officers were subsequently said to have been questioned on suspicion that they deleted footage of the altercation.

Outgoing Jerusalem District Commander Doron Turgeman has backed the officers involved.

“This is a court martial by the media,” Turgeman said last year. “This is a wrong attempt to portray the circumstances of the incident in a completely distorted light.”

“The distance between the damage caused to the suspect’s face during the arrest, and the false narrative they’re trying to present, is far from reality,” he said. “I trust the officers who were there and their credibility.”

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