JERUSALEM: Israeli investigators have cleared officers who shot dead an Israeli Arab in disputed circumstances last year of any criminal act, the justice ministry said Tuesday.
Yacoub Abu Al-Qiyan, 50, was killed as police staged a pre-dawn raid on the Bedouin village of Umm Al-Hiran to demolish several homes built without planning permission.
A police statement shortly after the incident described him as a “terrorist from the Islamic Movement,” and suggested he may have had ties to the Islamic State jihadist group.
Police said at the time that he was shot as he deliberately drove at officers, killing a policeman.
But residents said he was shot before losing control of the car and have pointed to an aerial video provided by the police, saying it backs their position.
Tuesday’s ministry statement said that there was no certainty that the impact that killed a policeman was deliberate, but also cleared police of criminal behavior.
“There was no reasonable suspicion of criminal offenses committed by the policemen involved in the incident,” said the statement from the justice ministry, which is responsible for investigating suspicions of police misconduct.
“It was decided not to continue the inquiry into the incident.”
It said that the police use of firearms was reasonable in light of their belief that their lives were in danger.
But it added there were “some issues” that the department referred back to the national police chief and the head of the police disciplinary department for them to consider if there was need for disciplinary action.
The statement said the Shin Bet internal security agency had examined the scene immediately after the deaths and had subsequently abandoned its investigation, saying it was unable to determine whether there had been a “terror attack.”
Qiyan’s nephew Raed demanded a broader investigation.
“Who planned it, who took part, who gave the orders, who opened fire, who left him to bleed for 30 minutes and prevented medics from reaching him,” he told Israeli public radio, citing what he said were the post-mortem findings.
He said that his late uncle had been a respected teacher and had represented Israel as a delegate to international conferences on education, science and technology.
Arab Israelis — including some 300,000 Bedouins — are descendants of Palestinians who remained after the creation of the state of Israel in 1948.
They now make up around 17.5 percent of the Jewish state’s population and say the state systematically discriminates against them.