Pallbearer beaten at Abu Akleh’s funeral arrested, lawyer says

Amro Abu Khdair has yet to be charged; police say no connection to funeral, any attempt to say otherwise a ‘cheap conspiracy’

People carry the coffin of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh in Jerusalem, May 13, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
People carry the coffin of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh in Jerusalem, May 13, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

A pallbearer beaten by police during the funeral of journalist Shireen Abu Akleh last week has been arrested, according to his lawyer. Khaldoon Nijm said his client Amro Abu Khdair was arrested on Monday, and has not been told what he is being charged with.

The arrest was first reported Wednesday by Reuters, with Nijm confirming it to The Times of Israel.

A police spokesperson insisted to Reuters that Abu Khdair’s arrest was unrelated to the Friday funeral, during which baton-wielding cops scuffled with mourners, at one point nearly causing the casket to topple.

Nijm, however, said Abu Khdair told him police had questioned him about the funeral.

Reuters cited a police spokesperson who denied the connection between Abu Khdair’s arrest and the funeral, stating that any attempt to connect the two incidents was a “cheap conspiracy.”

Abu Khdair will remain in police custody until Sunday, his lawyer said.

Israeli police confront mourners as they carry the coffin of slain Al Jazeera veteran journalist Shireen Abu Akleh during her funeral in Jerusalem, Friday, May 13, 2022. (AP Photo/Mahmoud Illean)

Reuters said it spoke to a second, unnamed pallbearer who claimed to have been questioned by police about the funeral but said he was not arrested.

Police initially said that the pallbearers had stolen the casket against the family’s wishes and the cops were stopping them, a claim disputed by those present.

Abu Akleh’s brother said the family and mourners had hoped to hold a “smooth procession” but were “bombarded” by officers as they left the hospital.

According to a Haaretz report from Sunday, the reason police intervened at the funeral was to seize Palestinian flags that were displayed during the ceremony.

Scenes of Israeli police using force against Palestinians who were carrying Abu Akleh’s casket outside a Jerusalem hospital drew widespread condemnation, with the White House saying they were “deeply disturbing,” and the European Union saying it was “appalled.”

Authorities later agreed to open a probe into the incident. Public Security Minister Omer Barlev said it was important to “draw conclusions” from the conduct of police during the ceremony.

“The Jerusalem District Police should have realized that this event needs to be allowed to take place, especially because of the ramifications and the international aspects of it,” an unnamed police source quoted by Channel 12 said Saturday.

“Even if Palestinian flags were waved and even if anti-Israel statements were heard and even if several stones were thrown, the commanding officers should have thought carefully before ordering officers to rush with batons and reach coffin carriers,” the source added.

But other senior police officials cited by Hebrew media have argued that the probe was a result of political pressure applied by Barlev, insisting that efforts were made to allow a peaceful and respectful funeral, while rioters “sought to interfere with the ceremony and hurt police officers.”

Meanwhile, Israel and the Palestinian Authority have been conducting separate investigations into Abu Akleh’s death, after the latter refused to cooperate with Israel in a joint investigation.

Several independent groups have also launched their own probes into the incident.

Abu Akleh, 51, was killed by gunfire Wednesday morning while covering clashes between Israeli troops and Palestinian gunmen during an Israeli military operation in the West Bank city of Jenin.

Aaron Boxerman contributed to this report.

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