The IDF Prosecutor’s Office announced Tuesday that no charges will be filed in the death of Bassem Abu-Rahma, 30, of the Palestinian Authority Arab town of Bilin.
Abu-Rahma died in 2009 following a protest that had turned into a violent clash with IDF soldiers. PA witnesses and doctors said he was killed by a direct blow from a tear gas canister.
On the day of his death dozens of Arabs and foreign and Israeli leftists had come to Bilin to demonstrate against the Judea and Samaria (Shomron) barrier. The crowd began throwing stones at nearby IDF soldiers, who responded with rubber bullets and tear gas.
Tear gas is largely considered a non-fatal means of crowd control, but the flying canisters can cause death if fired directly at a person.
Video clips later released by protesters showed that Abu-Rahma had not been taking part in the attacks on soldiers.
IDF Advocate-General Major General Danny Efroni explained why the case was closed. “There is not enough evidence, at the level required in criminal cases, to take legal action against any of the soldiers involved," he wrote.
The incident was investigated by Border Police detectives as well, due to the presence of Border Police officers during the riot. They, too, concluded that the case could not be brought to trial. “It cannot be said, with the level of certainty needed in criminal cases, who it was who hit [Abu-Rahma],” a statement said.
Efroni’s statement came in response to a Supreme Court petition filed by Abu-Rahma’s mother, with assistance from the Bilin Council and the Israeli groups Yesh Din and B’Tselem. In the petition it was argued that multiple soldiers had fired tear gas directly at protesters during the protest, in violation of open-fire procedures which call to fire the canisters high to avoid striking demonstrators.
Abu-Rahma’s death was included in the film “5 Broken Cameras,” a joint Israeli-PA film that was nominated for an Oscar. The film was criticized for its pro-Arab slant.
Less than two years after his death, Bilin residents and doctors accused Israeli soldiers of having killed a second Bilin resident, Jawaher Abu Rahma, with tear gas during a similar violent protest. However, an investigation showed that Jawaher Abu Rahma had not been at the protest in question, and that her death had been caused by a drug overdose administered by doctors.