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Cop filmed attacking Ethiopian-Israeli soldier fired

As activists set to return to Tel Aviv, police chief says officer who attacked Damas Pakada may be indicted

File: Video footage showing policemen pummeling an Ethiopian-born IDF soldier, Damas Pakada, who alleged he was the target of a racist attack. (screen capture: YouTube)
File: Video footage showing policemen pummeling an Ethiopian-born IDF soldier, Damas Pakada, who alleged he was the target of a racist attack. (screen capture: YouTube)

A police officer caught on video beating Ethiopian-born soldier Damas Pakada will be fired and may face criminal charges, police chief Yohanan Danino announced Wednesday.

The news came as police geared up for fresh protests against police brutality in Tel Aviv planned for next week, after a previous protest sparked by a video of Pakada’s beating turned into a violent melee earlier this month.

Danino said the officer was fired following a dismissal hearing on Tuesday. “[The officer] made many claims, and there was a thorough discussion on this matter, which included the legal counsel, the department of discipline, the attorney general and the head of human resources,” he said during a conference in a northern Israeli college.

“After listening to everyone, I decided to fire him from the police force.”

The beating of Pakada was among the catalysts for Ethiopian-Israeli protests against police brutality and racism that turned violent in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv this month. Activists have repeatedly called for the officer’s dismissal.

Israel Police chief Yohanan Danino attends an Interior Affairs meeting in the Knesset, November 2, 2014. (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Israel Police chief Yohanan Danino attends an Interior Affairs meeting in the Knesset, November 2, 2014. (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)

The police chief added that the officer’s layoff was independent of the criminal investigation he is currently facing.

“If [the police investigation unit] decides there is sufficient evidence, he will be indicted and will receive his punishment,” he said.

Another policeman seen in the video was a volunteer officer, who has since been banned from serving with the police.

But the dismissal of the officer may not satisfy protesters, who have expressed dissatisfaction with government measures taken since the rally in Tel Aviv that devolved into a chaotic and violent street battle that left 65 people injured.

The police reported that 43 people were arrested during the clashes. Four were indicted last week.

Police detain an Ethiopian Israeli at an anti-police brutality demonstration in Tel Aviv's Rabin Square on Sunday, May 3, 2015. (photo credit: Judah Ari Gross/Times of Israel staff)
Police detain an Ethiopian Israeli at an anti-police brutality demonstration in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square on Sunday, May 3, 2015. (photo credit: Judah Ari Gross/Times of Israel staff)

During a press conference in Tel Aviv on Sunday, a panel of the protest movement’s leaders expressed their frustration with what they said was the government’s shortcomings in addressing the quality of life of the Ethiopian-Israeli community.

“The decision makers neglected the Ethiopian community and ignored the harsh realities, in which an entire generation feels that it is not part of society and has no place in it,” said Inbar Bugale, one of the leaders of the movement, reading from a prepared statement.

Hundreds of activists took to the streets of Haifa Tuesday night, and plan to return to the center of Tel Aviv next week.

In the invitation to the rally, organizers called on “the entire Israeli nation, the entire Ethiopian community, and anyone who believes in social justice and equality” to attend the Monday afternoon rally planned for the coastal city’s central Rothschild Boulevard.

“We are a brave generation of Ethiopian community members, who demand social justice and will not rest until we obtain it,” it stated.

Israel is home to some 135,500 Israelis of Ethiopian descent, including more than 50,000 born inside the country.

Times of Israel Staff contributed to this report.

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