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Parents of autistic Palestinian killed by police petition over case delays

Iyad Halak’s family tells High Court the internal affairs department is hesitating on charges because suspects in mistaken shooting are cops

The parents of Iyad Halak, an autistic Palestinian man who was fatally shot by Israeli police, Khiri, right, and mother Rana, talk during an interview in Jerusalem, June 3, 2020. (Mahmoud Illean/AP)
The parents of Iyad Halak, an autistic Palestinian man who was fatally shot by Israeli police, Khiri, right, and mother Rana, talk during an interview in Jerusalem, June 3, 2020. (Mahmoud Illean/AP)

The parents of an autistic East Jerusalem man who was shot to death by police in late May filed a petition at the High Court of Justice on Tuesday charging that an investigation into the incident was taking too long to reach a conclusion on whether to press charges against the officers involved.

The family of Iyad Halak filed the petition against the Justice Ministry’s Police Internal Investigations Department, saying, “The circumstances of the case do not justify the considerable delay.”

Halak, who was 32, was fatally shot on May 30 just inside Jerusalem’s Old City as he was making his daily walk to the special-needs institution he attended. At the time, police said they believed he was carrying a gun and had opened fire when he failed to heed calls to stop.

According to various accounts, two members of the Border Police chased Halak into a garbage room and shot him as he cowered next to a bin. Halak’s teacher, who was with him, told an Israeli TV station that she repeatedly cried out to police that he was disabled as she tried to stop them. He was shot at least seven times.

“The respondent’s delay gives the petitioners the impression that the respondent’s conduct is being dictated by hesitation, and only because the suspects in taking their son’s life are police officers,” the petition said.

It said that it was in the public interest “to conduct an investigation and procedures that are effective and are done at a reasonable pace.”

Iyad Halak. (Courtesy)

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

Last month the subordinate officer, who is the main suspect in the case, took part in a reenactment and described the incident to investigators.

According to Haaretz, the police officer who commanded the force that pursued Halak has told investigators he didn’t pose a danger and there was no cause to shoot him.

He said he instructed the officer who shot Halak to hold his fire, but the policeman didn’t hear him.

Halak’s family has repeatedly called on police to release security camera footage of the incident.

One of the officers who was involved in the killing of Iyad Halak is seen with investigators during a reconstruction of the incident in Jerusalem, August 26, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

In July representatives of the investigations department met with Halak’s parents to update them about the investigation, telling the family that security cameras at the site of the shooting were not recording at the time.

The revelation drew calls from the family of Halak that a probe be launched out of concern that police were hiding evidence in the case.

At the time, the shooting drew comparisons to the death of George Floyd in the US and prompted a series of demonstrations against police violence. The uproar crossed Israeli-Palestinian lines and drew Jewish protesters as well, and Israeli leaders expressed regret over the shooting.

The family has in the past complained about the slow pace of the investigation.

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