Police sued for planting rifle in Arab man’s home for filming of TV series

Samer Sleiman files lawsuit against officers who raided his East Jerusalem house at 3:30 a.m., were shown in Kan docudrama ‘finding’ an M16 in his basement; police apologize

View of the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Issawiya from Mount Scopus, December 15, 2016. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
View of the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Issawiya from Mount Scopus, December 15, 2016. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Police officers planted a rifle in the home of an East Jerusalem resident and then “found” it as part of a documentary broadcast on Israel’s public broadcaster, a report revealed Tuesday, citing a lawsuit filed by the man.

Police apologized on Tuesday after the case garnered widespread media coverage, and said they were probing the incident.

The television show “Jerusalem District” on the Kan broadcaster portrayed the rifle being found in a raid at Samer Sleiman’s home in the neighborhood of Issawiya.

However, the officers had told him — and stated in an official report they handed him — that nothing suspicious was in fact found in the search, the Haaretz daily revealed.

They did not inform him that the raid was staged as part of a TV series, and said the cameras were there to prevent complaints about property damage. He had been told the search was part of an intelligence operation.

“Jerusalem District” is a nine-episode docudrama that purports to “provide a rare glimpse into the activities of the intelligence, detectives and Border Police officers in the Jerusalem district.”

Sleiman has now complained that after the ninth episode — filmed in November 2018 — was broadcast on June 23, neighbors and friends recognized his voice and house despite his face being blurred. He is now afraid that some will think he is a criminal or suspect him of cooperating with Israeli authorities since he hasn’t been charged or even questioned over the gun ostensibly found in his home.

“My clients didn’t believe it was happening to them,” wrote the family’s lawyer, Itay Mack. “In one instant they became, in the eyes of the public, criminals and users and traffickers of illegal weapons. Additionally, since no legal proceedings were taken against them, claims began to circulate that they are cooperating with police.”

Following the lawsuit, which was filed on Sunday, Kan decided to take down the episode from its online platforms until the issue is clarified.

The logo for Kan docudrama TV series “Jerusalem District.” (Screenshot: YouTube)

In the episode, officers are seen searching Sleiman’s home at 3:30 a.m. and finding the weapon in a basement described by one of them as akin, in size, to a cross-border attack tunnel dug by the Hamas terror group in Gaza.

Sleiman explained that a big hole had been made in one of the basement walls when his brother’s snake escaped into a small hole and they wanted to rescue it without harming it. He said that had he owned an expensive rifle, he wouldn’t have kept it in the damp hole.

He also complained that the officers had left the apartment in disorder and used dogs in the raid, one of which damaged his medications.

Kan said it was checking the complaint with the production company, Koda Communications, and that if the “severe” allegations were found to have even a “sliver of truth,” the matter would be dealt with accordingly. The production company refused to comment.

The Israel Police did not deny the claims, and initially said it would respond to the complainant rather than the media. However, later in the day, police issued a statement apologizing “for any harm caused to the civilian as a result of the segment’s airing.” It added that the case was being probed and that conclusions would be drawn as necessary.

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