Driver suspected of killing boy remanded in custody as drug suspicions mount

Driver suspected of killing boy remanded in custody as drug suspicions mount

Police say drug test for Amir Abu Laben returned positive but still requires second opinion; he is suspected of causing the death of 8-year-old Itay Margi on Yom Kippur

Itay Margi (Courtesy)
Itay Margi (Courtesy)

The Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court on Sunday remanded in custody for five days a driver suspected of running over and killing an 8-year-old boy on Yom Kippur last week, as evidence mounted that he had been under the influence of drugs at the time.

Amir Abu Laben, 20, from Ramle is suspected of hitting the boy, Itay Margi, at a junction on Tel Aviv’s Namir Road. Margi, who was wearing a helmet, was hit at a pedestrian crossing.

Israelis, especially children, are known to take advantage of the dearth of cars on the roads and highways on the somber holiday, filling the streets with bicycles.

Police suspect Abu Laben of manslaughter, traffic offenses, dealing in narcotics, and obstructing an investigation.

During Sunday’s court hearing, the manslaughter suspicion was briefly removed from the case, but was quickly reinstated.

Eyewitnesses have told police that in the moments after the collision, Abu Laben threw something into nearby bushes. Police later found 1.6 grams of cocaine in the bushes, which they believe was for distribution rather than personal use, as Abu Laben claims.

A review of the electronic devices found in Abu Laben’s car revealed text messages indicating that clients had purchased drugs from him, in addition to his fingerprint being found on the cocaine discovered at the scene.

A police representative said those findings significantly bolster the suspicion that Abu Laben had been distributing drugs and had attempted to hide the evidence.

He added that a drug test has indicated that there were traces of drugs in his blood, but that police were waiting for a second opinion.

The court remanded him for five more days — police had asked for eight days — after his detention was previously extended last week by four days.

Israelis ride their bicycles along the empty Ayalon highway in Tel Aviv, on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, and the holiest of Jewish holidays, October 09, 2019 (Miriam Alster/Flash 90)

In addition to examining traffic cameras from the scene, police have interviewed a number of eyewitnesses.

One eyewitness told police that “after the accident the only thing that interested him was to hide the stuff,” Channel 12 reported last week.

A police representative said during the hearing that one witness said Abu Laben “was driving at a crazy speed.”

An attorney for the suspect said that his client has expressed regret over what had happened and was cooperating with police.

Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement and the holiest day of the Jewish calendar, began on Tuesday at sundown last week and ended Wednesday evening, marked by a fast and intense prayer by religious Jews.

In addition to Margi’s death, 10-year-old cyclist Riad Abu Shariki was hit by a motorbike and killed on Route 443 in the center of the country.

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