Police officer indicted for urinating on Palestinian prisoner

Police officer indicted for urinating on Palestinian prisoner

Yaakov Ben Nissim Cohen charged with abuse of blindfolded, handcuffed detainee in 2007, after High Court overturns decision to close case

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

Illustrative: An IDF soldier sits in a military court. (Tsafrir Abayov/Flash90)
Illustrative: An IDF soldier sits in a military court. (Tsafrir Abayov/Flash90)

Prosecutors indicted an Israeli police officer last month for allegedly urinating on a blindfolded and handcuffed Palestinian detainee in a West Bank police station 10 years ago.

According to the charge sheet, on November 6, 2007, Officer Yaakov Ben Nissim Cohen led the Palestinian suspect, Muhammad Warani, to the bathroom in the West Bank settlement of Ma’ale Adumim.

Cohen, who was 18 at the time, forced the suspect, who had his hands bound and a strip of cloth covering his eyes, to sit on a toilet. Inside the stall, the officer “urinated on the face of the plaintiff, as the plaintiff screamed and shook his head from side to side,” the prosecutors wrote.

“In the above-described actions, the defendant psychologically abused a helpless victim,” said the indictment, which was filed on November 1 but only came to light on Sunday.

The charges were filed by the Justice Ministry’s Police Investigations Department, which is similar to US police forces’ internal affairs department.

The case against Cohen was initially closed by Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, but, in March, the High Court of Justice overturned that decision, following an appeal by the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel on behalf of the victim.

The judges did not rule on the case itself, but determined that the allegations had sufficient merit to warrant a trial.

In part, the decision was based on conversations between prisoners that were recorded without their knowledge and which seemed to support the allegation.

“The smell of the urine is revolting… it killed us… good that they didn’t force me to drink it… they pee into a bag and put it on your head,” the victim said to a cellmate.

A view of the Israeli Supreme Court in Jerusalem (Flash90)
A view of the Israeli Supreme Court in Jerusalem (Flash90)

Cohen initially denied the allegation, but after he was arrested and told that his DNA had been found on the petitioner’s clothes, he admitted that the incident had taken place, though he said it was an accident.

He claimed that he had taken the handcuffed and blindfolded detainee to the bathroom, and after the detainee had finished, had asked him to stand to the side so that he too could use the toilet.

The policeman said he had asked the prisoner to kneel so that he would be in a better position should something happen, and when the detainee unexpectedly moved, the officer turned, which is when he urinated on him.

When asked by investigators why he had denied that the incident had taken place, he said he had felt ashamed about his “blunder.”

The justices ruled that the officer‘s response could be seen either as an admission or a lie and that it was right to let a court decide.

Sue Surkes contributed to this report.

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