Sister of Ethiopian-Israeli killed by off-duty cop allowed to move to Israel
‘It is the least we can do to ease the pain and suffering of the family,’ minister says after sister of Solomon Tekah arrives at Ben-Gurion Airport
The sister of Solomon Tekah, an Ethiopian-Israeli teen killed by an off-duty police officer three months ago, has been allowed to immigrate to Israel and arrived in the country on Sunday.
Meseret Warika and her two young sons were welcomed at Ben-Gurion airport by Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel, who said he had helped facilitate her immigration.
The killing of Tekah, 19, sparked nationwide protests, which at times turned violent and saw damage to property. The incident immediately sparked renewed accusations of police brutality and racism toward Israelis of Ethiopian descent. Days after the shooting, protesters across Israel blocked roads, burned tires and denounced what they said is systemic discrimination against the community.
Ariel said in Facebook post that he had been assisted in his efforts to bring Warika to Israel by the Interior Ministry and former MK Avraham Neguise.
“It is the least we can do to ease the pain and suffering of the family,” he wrote.
Thousands of Ethiopian families are divided with the government yet to allocate funds to bring some 8,000 Ethiopian Jews to Israel.
Most of those remaining in the East African nation are practicing Jews and are believed to have family members that already reside in Israel.
But Israel does not consider them Jewish under strict religious law, meaning their immigration requires special approval. They are descendants of Ethiopian Jews who were forcibly converted to Christianity around a century ago, and the Israeli government views bringing them to Israel as “family reunification,” rather than “aliyah,” or Jewish immigration. The families allege discrimination.
News of her arrival in Israel came the same day as a report that the Justice Ministry’s Police Internal Investigations Department is expected to indict the off-duty police officer who killed Tekah on a softened murder charge.
According to the report in the Haaretz daily, the officer will likely be indicted for negligent homicide, a charge that carries a maximum penalty of three years in prison.
PIID investigators determined the policeman had no reason to draw his gun, the report said, even though Tekah was throwing stones at him.
Legal sources told the paper investigators had initially drafted an opinion that the officer should face a heavier murder charge, which could carry up to 12 years in prison.
However, the more severe charge is not likely to be pursued because investigators do not believe they will be able to dispute the officer’s account that he felt his life was in danger before he fired his weapon, Haaretz reported.
The officer, who has not publicly been named, has maintained he was trying to break up a street fight in the Haifa neighborhood of Kiryat Haim last June and was set upon by three youths who hurled stones at him, endangering his life. The officer says he fired a shot at the ground and the bullet ricocheted up, fatally hitting Tekah.