Police arrest 4 — including two prison workers — in ‘lynching’ of Eritrean

Suspects charged with aggravated assault for allegedly beating Haftom Zarhum, who later died of a gunshot wound

Haftom Zarhum, 29, died of his wounds on October 19, 2015, a few hours after he was shot and beaten by a mob that mistook him for an assailant in the terror attack in Beersheba on October 18, 2015. (Courtesy)
Haftom Zarhum, 29, died of his wounds on October 19, 2015, a few hours after he was shot and beaten by a mob that mistook him for an assailant in the terror attack in Beersheba on October 18, 2015. (Courtesy)

The police on Wednesday arrested four suspects implicated in beating an Eritrean man at the Beersheba central bus station who was mistakenly shot on suspicion he was a terrorist during an attack.

The 29-year-old Eritrean national, Haftom Zarhum, died in the hospital after he was shot by police, who thought he was a terrorist, and then beaten by an enraged mob.

Videos from the incident showed him fleeing the scene, only to be gunned down and then kicked repeatedly in the head by a crowd in the bus station, who also hurled a bench at his head, in the aftermath of a terror attack that left one soldier dead and 11 more people injured.

Two of the people arrested by police were Israel Prison Service officers, Channel 2 reported. The four were charged with aggravated assault for involvement in brutally beating Zarhum, who was sprawled on the floor of the bus station with a bullet wound to the torso.

Security camera footage showing an Eritrean man being shot in the Beersheba central bus station on October 18, 2015, after he was thought to be a terrorist. (screen capture: Channel 2)
Security camera footage showing an Eritrean man being shot in the Beersheba central bus station on October 18, 2015, after he was thought to be a terrorist. (screen capture: Channel 2)

The four will be brought for an extension of their remand on Thursday. At least two others suspected in what the police, Israeli politicians and the press called a “lynching” were IDF soldiers. The IDF said Monday that the military police was taking part in the investigation of the incident.

The head of the Israel Prison Service said the body would also take action against the two should they be found guilty.

“Violence contradicts the values of the organization, and therefore in accordance with the findings of the investigation we will act in order to denounce their involvement in the incident and bring them to justice in the administrative aspect as well,” the prison service said in a statement.

Forensic pathologists determined Wednesday that Zarhum died as a result of bullet wounds sustained from being shot by police and a security guard, and not due to the blows he sustained during the beating.

Investigators at the Institute of Forensic Medicine in Abu Kabir completed Zarhum’s autopsy Wednesday. According to a police source, several gunshot wounds and signs of violence were discovered on his body, but the shooting was what ultimately caused Zarhum’s death.

The two Prison Service employees’ attorney said that “after the autopsy of the foreign worker determined that his death was caused by the gunfire and not from the blows of the civilians — therefore this is an unnecessary procedure.”

On Monday, police said in a statement that they viewed Zarhum’s beating as “very grave,” adding that they would “not allow [citizens] to take the law into their hands.” They also called for “everyone to act with restraint and extra caution and allow the police to perform their duty.”

Thousands turned out for a memorial service in south Tel Aviv for Zarhum Wednesday evening.

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