After Israeli civilians cut down trees; a Palestinian identifies them. But the police close the case, claiming they have no idea who the perpetrator is. 

I am considering demanding the Treasury repay me for the portion of my taxes they spent on the Samaria and Judea Police Deparment, since it is clearly a superfluous expense. This blog is not, to say the least, an admirer of the SJPD, but this time special forces would be required to help it find its missing jaw.

The case goes as follows. Our client, Abd Al Latif Dar Samkhan, who resides in the village of Ras Karkar, heard on April 19, 2014 from his neighbors that settlers are on his land, damaging his olive trees. He hurried to the scene along with members of his family, where he found a group of Israeli civilians (accompanied by two dogs) who were busily cutting down his trees. The Israelis retreated to a nearby pond, where they mocked the angry landowner and told him they were not scared of the SJPD, using the opportunity to curse the name of the Propher Muhammad. The Israelis climbed into a white car and – according to the witnesses – vanished in the direction of the settlement Neriya. They left behind some 60 cut-down olive trees.

IDF and SJPD forces reached the scene, where the police immediately took early statements – with which it did nothing. Alongside our client was a witness, Azmi Samkhan. A month after the incident, on May 19, 2014 19.5.14, Azmi was summoned for a second testimony; he was asked to provide evidence that the land was indeed his. The police summoned him again the next day, and this time asked him to partake in a photo identification.

Azmi’s response was unequivocal: he positively identified three suspects. “This is the man who threw stones at me,” he says, “that is the one who was cutting down the trees,” and “this one climbed on top of a sapling in order to break it down.” The names of the suspects are known to us, but we are forbidden from publish them; the SJPD has the names. Azmi also described, once more, the dogs who followed the attackers: a black dog and one colored brown and white.

One might have expected — were we not dealing with the SJPD — that after the three suspects were identified to the investigators, althoughthough it was a month after the incident, they would summon them for an interrogation. One might have also expected the investigators to make an effort to find out the owner of the dogs.

Keyword: might.

The photos held for Samkhan on May 20, 2014 was the last investigative action that can be found in the file. On April 28, 2015, nearly a year after the incident took place, and 11 months after Azmi identified three attackers, the police closed the case. The clause justifying the act was UP — “unknown perpetrator.” That’s when my jaw dropped.

Let me explain. UP is one of nine clauses under which the police may close a case. It means that the police acknowledge that a crime took place, but that it has no clue as to the identity of the suspects. This is the most common clause used by the SJPD to close cases.

But how can you say, for crying out loud, that you have no suspects when a witness fingered three of them? How, for crying out loud, can you not summon them for an interrogation? Where, for crying out loud, do you find the chutzpah to then close the case under the unknown perpetrator clause? You were told who they were! You know the names! They are written down in your reports!

After we dealt with an investigator who decided not to check whether there are security cameras at the scene of a child’s attempted kidnapping — since he didn’t think they would cover the scene — we now have investigators who, even when told the names of suspects, are incapable of interrogating them.

And, of course, this screw-up is attended by the usual failure to inform the victims of the crime. The police closed the case on April 28, 2015 but only bothered to inform us – the attorneys of the victim – on June 25. Only on July 12 did we manage to get a copy of the half-empty case file. Our attorneys, Noa Amrami and Michal Pasovsky, sent an appeal in early August demanding the reopening of the case and the interrogation of the suspects, noting that “the fact the suspects were not summoned [for interrogation] is to be construed as negligence and raises serious questions about the way the police handles criminality against Palestinians residing in the Territories.”

However, the chance that the criminals will be indicted after more than a year of a police failure is so small, that if it does happen we will probably be invited to a gala performance of the Flying Pigs Wing. So, again, I want the money I spent on the SJPD back, please.