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Suspicion: Border police assaulted teen in custody. Abu Dis, 28 August 2012

Update: On 2 May 2013 the Department for the Investigation of Police (DIP) informed B’Tselem that upon conclusion of the investigation, the case file was closed for lack of evidence. 

Sa’id Qiblawi. Photo: Suha Zeid, B'Tselem, 30 Aug. 2012Testimony collected by B’Tselem shows that, during the evening of Tuesday, 28 August 2012, Sa’id Qiblawi, age 14, chanced on an area near his home in Abu Dis where children were throwing stones at border police officers. On trying to leave, Qiblawi was stopped by a policeman who, he testified, dragged him on the ground and put him inside a jeep, where, lying on the floor, he was beaten by other police officers. More beating followed at the nearby border police base.

Some hours later, Qiblawi was taken for questioning to the Ma’ale Adumim police station. His father was present during his interrogation. Qiblawi was then released on a guarantee. B’Tselem contacted the DIP demanding an inquiry into his case.

Description of the incident:

On Tuesday, 28 August 2012, at approximately 8:00 PM, Sa’id Qiblawi, age 14, was sent by his mother to buy something she needed from a pharmacy near their home.

In his testimony to B’Tselem, Qiblawi related that he went to the pharmacy but did not find the item, and set out for another pharmacy nearby. He says:

“On the way, I saw a border police jeep standing on the road. I was a little scared, but decided to keep going toward the pharmacy. Suddenly, I saw a bunch of children and youths running toward the jeep. They started throwing stones at the jeep.”

Qiblawi related that he worried that the border police officers might think that he was participating in the stone-throwing and arrest him. He began running toward his house but encountered another border police jeep. He says:

“A policeman inside the jeep called me: “Come here, you sonafabitch.” I was scared and shaking and didn’t know what to do. I tried to run away but tripped on a stone and fell. I hurt my right knee and couldn’t stand on it for the pain. The officers threw a stun grenade near me and two of them came over to me. One of them pointed his weapon at me and the other one grabbed me by the arm and dragged me on the ground a few meters. Meantime my sandals fell off and I was barefoot. The police put me into the jeep, lying down on the floor. In the jeep they began hitting me with their hands, kicking me, and hitting me with their rifles. I was lying there on the floor, trying to protect myself from the officers’ beating by putting my arms over my head.”

After a short drive, the jeep reached the border police base in Abu Dis. Qiblawi described what happened there in his testimony:

“The jeep stopped and two policemen stood me up. One of them kicked me and I fell out of the jeep into the yard of the base. Then the policemen stood me on my feet. A policeman came over to me. He was wearing a helmet and head butted me with it. It hurt and I felt dizzy. Another policeman punched me in the eye. I felt as if my eye was being torn out of place. I screamed from the pain. I told the policemen that I hadn’t done anything and asked them to let me go.”

At this point, the policemen cuffed Qiblawi’s hands behind his back and blindfolded him. Then they sat him on a chair somewhere on the base. Qiblawi relates in his testimony that while he was sitting there waiting, handcuffed and blindfolded, policemen would pass by periodically and would beat him or curse him. After a few hours, the police took Qiblawi in the jeep to the Ma’ale Adumim police station.

Sa’id Qiblawi’s father, Ali, testified to B’Tselem that when he realized that his son was late coming back from the pharmacy, he began worrying. At the first pharmacy that his son had visited, the proprietor told him that he had sent the boy to another pharmacy. On the way there, Ali Qiblawi saw the confrontation between the children and the border police. He says that one of the children he met there told him that the police had caught one of the children and he realized that perhaps it was his son. The father and his brother-in-law went to the nearby border police base and tried to find out whether Sa’id had been arrested. After they waited over an hour, a policeman told Ali Qiblawi that his son had been arrested and taken to the Etzion police station. The father, afraid he might be arrested himself if he went to Etzion, called an attorney who said he would go in the morning to Gush Etzion to see about the boy. Then Qiblawi went home.

That night, at around 2:00 AM, the telephone rang in the family’s house. The father testified:

“There was a policeman on the line from the Ma’ale Adumim police station. He told me that my son was with them and asked me to come to the station. I quickly got ready and went there. When they brought me into the interrogation room I was shocked to see Sa’id. His appearance was frightening. His right eye was swollen and red and his head was also swollen. I lifted Sa’id’s shirt and saw signs of a beating on his chest and his back. When I saw my son in that situation I was very angry. I felt my chest burning from the sorrow at what happened to him . I yelled at the policemen but they said that the Ma’ale Adumim police had nothing to do with the beating my son got and that Sa’id had arrived there in that condition.”

Sa’id Qiblawi was questioned in Arabic in the presence of his father and asked about his involvement in the incident and about the names of the others involved. He denied that he had been involved in stone throwing and said that he had only recently moved with his family into the area and does not know the children who live there. Later, he told his interrogator that he was beaten by the police who arrested him.

After the interrogation ended, the police demanded that his father deposit a bond of NIS 1,500 in cash for the release of his son. He said that he had only NIS 500 and after a brief discussion, the police agreed to be satisfied with that.

Sa’id Qiblawi was released from detention and received a summons for trial at the military court at Ofer prison to be held in late January 2013. On his release, his father took him to the Abu Dis clinic where he was diagnosed with superficial wounds.

Since the incident, Qiblawi’s mental state has been fragile. His father says he refuses to walk alone to school and demands that his father go with him every day as far as the classroom.Qiblawi has also had nightmares and has trouble sleeping, and refuses to go outside because he’s afraid of being arrested.

B’Tselem contacted the Department for the Investigation of Police, demanding they open an inquiry to clarify the circumstances of the incident.