Police suspect left-wing activist Ezra Nawi of involvement in the murder of a Palestinian who lived near the Hebron Hills, Haaretz has reported. Nawi’s attorneys claim the man, nicknamed Abu Halil, died naturally in his sleep.
Nawi was arrested earlier this month, shortly after a TV expose on Channel 2 showed him boasting that he helps the Palestinian Authority capture Palestinians trying to sell their land to Jews — an offense they are often killed for.
A judge on Friday extended Nawi’s remand until Sunday to allow police to conduct a clandestine investigation regarding Nawi, the nature of which was revealed to the judge in a classified document.
In the investigative report, aired by Channel 2’s Uvda program, Nawi can be heard speaking about four Palestinian real estate sellers, whom Nawi said mistook him for a Jew interested in buying their property. “Straight away I give their pictures and phone numbers to the Preventive Security Force,” Nawi is heard saying in reference to the Palestinian Authority’s counterintelligence arm. “The Palestinian Authority catches them and kills them. But before it kills them, they get beat up a lot.”
One of the men in whose death Nawi claims to have been involved in the video is Abu Halil, who according to official records died of a stroke in 2014.
Police believe Abu Halil was attempting to set up a land deal with Jewish buyers. Nawi, who learned of the plan, notified the plot owner, a relative of Abu Halil. The latter died, allegedly of a stroke, shortly thereafter. Police raised the possibility that by conveying the information about Abu Halil, Nawi was indirectly complicit in his death.
Abu Halil “died in his bed from an illness and there is no connection between the defendant and his death,” Nawi’s lawyer Eitan Peleg said at a discussion at the Jerusalem District Court. “Police knows this and must know it, and there is no problem getting a death certificate from the hospital to examine what was a person’s cause of death. One doesn’t need dozens of investigative procedures for this.”
Judge Yoad Cohen rejected Peleg’s claim, ruling that the suspicions warranted further investigation.
Police on Thursday blocked the court mandated release of a Palestinian arrested as part of the investigation. The Jerusalem District Court granted an unconditional release to Nasser Nawaj’ah, saying it had no jurisdiction on the matter. However, police then brought him before a military court at Ofer military prison in the West Bank, which agreed to extend his remand.
In the Palestinian Authority, the penal code calls for capital punishment for anyone convicted of selling land to Jews. This law, which Palestinian officials defended as designed to prevent takeovers by settlers, has not been implemented in Palestinian courts, where sellers of land to Jews are usually sentenced to several years in prison.