Family of East Jerusalem man killed by cops: We don’t believe he’ll get justice
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Arab MK slams 'coward, criminal' public security minister

Family of East Jerusalem man killed by cops: We don’t believe he’ll get justice

‘They won’t do anything’ because the victim is Palestinian, says sister of Iyad Halak, an unarmed autistic man shot by officers who said they thought he was armed

Iyad Halak (Courtesy)
Iyad Halak (Courtesy)

The family of an East Jerusalem man with autism shot to death by police officers said Monday that they didn’t believe Israel would do “anything” to the offending cops because their victim was Palestinian.

Iyad Halak, 32, was shot dead in Jerusalem’s Old City on Saturday, with police saying he had appeared to be holding a gun. But Halak was unarmed and had apparently not understood officers’ orders to halt as he passed near the Lion’s Gate. He reportedly fled on foot and hid in a garbage room, where he was gunned down.

“The policeman who did it should get what he deserves, he needs to be imprisoned,” Iyad’s sister, Diana, told the Walla news site. “But I know they won’t do anything to him; they won’t because [Iyad was a] Palestinian.”

She added, however, that “we will try to cause [the policeman] to get what he deserves for what he did.”

The policemen involved in the incident gave conflicting accounts of the events, with a commander telling investigators he had urged his subordinate to cease fire, an order that was not followed, he said, according to reports in Hebrew media. The officer denied the commander’s account.

The two were questioned under caution on Saturday. One officer was placed under house arrest and his commander was released from custody under restrictive conditions.

Investigators were looking into whether Halak was shot only after taking refuge in the garbage room, and not during the foot chase. Witnesses said there were at least seven shots fired in his direction.

A caregiver who accompanied Halak told Israeli media Sunday that she told the police officers he was disabled and did not understand their commands, but they appeared to ignore her cries.

Joint List leader Ayman Odeh speaks during a protest against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at Rabin Square in Tel Aviv on April 19, 2020. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

On Monday evening, Israel’s top Arab lawmaker lashed out at the new public security minister, Amir Ohana, over the matter during a heated Knesset discussion.

Ohana had earlier expressed sorrow for Halak’s death and vowed to investigate. But he said it was too early to “pass sentence” on the police officers involved, noting that they “are required to make fateful decisions in seconds in an area that has been inundated with terror attacks, and in which there is a constant danger to their lives.”

“You’re a coward!” Joint List chairman Ayman Odeh shouted at Ohana in the Knesset plenum. “If you have the courage, bring us the video [of the incident]. In any other case, you release the clip after a few hours. Where is the video of Iyad Halak’s murder?

“You cheap opportunistic coward. You chicken,” he continued, as Ohana stayed silent and looked at his phone. “You are part of the crime. We want to know the truth. We want to know what happened in East Jerusalem, where there is a camera in every alleyway. You’re a liar.”

As he was dragged outside the plenum by guards, Odeh shouted: “You murdered him! You criminals. You are a criminal. Had you been human, I would have asked you how you can sleep at night. But you’re not human.”

Hundreds attended Halak’s funeral late Sunday, marching through the streets of East Jerusalem and chanting nationalist slogans of revenge.

Halak was carried in an open green coffin on the shoulders of the mourners, his body draped in a Palestinian flag.

Chanting “Khaybar, Khaybar, O Jews, Mohammad’s army has began to return” and “to the street, revolutionaries!” the crowd marched down Salah A-Din street toward the Maqbarat al-Mujahideen, literally “the cemetery of those who pursue Jihad.”

The cry relates to an event in the seventh century when Muslims, led by the Prophet Mohammad, massacred and expelled Jews from the town of Khaybar, located in modern-day Saudi Arabia.

Ahead of the funeral, demonstrations were held against police brutality on Saturday and Sunday night in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Some held signs drawing connections between the case of Halak and the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, which sparked protests across the United States.

Protesters hold signs during a demonstration in Jaffa against the Israeli police after border police officers shot and killed Iyad Halak, an unarmed autistic Palestinian man whom they said they suspected was carrying a weapon, May 31, 2020. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

Defense Minister Benny Gantz expressed sorrow Sunday for the deadly shooting.

“We are sorry about the incident in which Iyad Halak was shot to death and we share the family’s grief,” Gantz told the cabinet meeting. “I am sure this matter will be investigated quickly and conclusions will be reached.”

Halak had been on his way to a special needs educational institution in the Old City where he studied. His father, Kheiri Hayak, told the Kan public broadcaster he believed his son was holding his cellphone when he was first spotted by the police.

“We tell him every morning to keep his phone in his hand so we can be in contact with him and make sure he has safely arrived at the educational institution,” Kheiri said.

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