Jerusalem police chief backs officers, attacks media

Palestinian files complaint against cops accused of branding him with Star of David

Arwah Sheikh Ali provides testimony to internal affairs on his violent arrest last week in East Jerusalem by group of officers whose body cameras were turned off

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

A Palestinian man on Tuesday filed an official complaint with the Justice Ministry’s Police Internal Investigations Department against officers he accuses of branding his face with a Star of David as they arrested him in East Jerusalem last week.

Arwah Sheikh Ali, a 22-year-old resident of the Shuafat refugee camp, still needs to be examined by a forensic expert to determine the source of his facial wound. Internal affairs was working to arrange an appointment for later Tuesday after Sheikh Ali finished testifying, according to the Ynet news site.

“A police officer put a taser to my head. I felt something hot on my face. These are not police — this is the mafia,” he told the outlet.

After he was released from custody on Sunday, Sheikh 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.

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

The case had already been referred to PIID on Saturday by the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court, with Judge Amir Shaked saying police have “no reasonable explanation” for how the bruises appeared. He also said police have no explanation for why the bodycams were not working on all 16 officers who had allegedly participated in the arrest.

The force was also criticized Sunday by a different judge for detaining Sheikh Ali at a police station over the weekend instead of a holding facility. Judge Adi Bar Tal — who ordered Sheikh Ali’s release — noted he had not been allowed to be examined by a physician despite an earlier ruling mandating this.

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)

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

Jerusalem District Commander Doron Turgeman on Tuesday backed the officers involved.

“This is a field trial by the media,” Turgeman said. “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,” Turgeman said. “I trust the officers who were there and their credibility.”

In a statement Saturday, police also said the officers used “reasonable force” to detain him and that the bruise was likely caused by “an article of clothing of one of the officers.”

A photo released by police on August 19, 2023, shows the boot of a police officer that allegedly caused cut marks on Palestinian detainee’s face. A lawyer for the suspect alleges police branded him with a Star of David. (Israel Police)

Accompanying the police’s statement was a photo of the triangular patterns of laces on an officer’s boot.

Police also said details about the case would be “immediately” sent to PIID for review.

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