The Palestine News Network published a report issued by Adalah, The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, which indicates that a former Israeli officer convicted of killing a Palestinian resident of Israel received financial aid from the government to finance his defense in court.On 1 September 2010, Adalah sent a letter to the head of Human Resources of the Israeli Police, Amihai Shai, regarding Shahar Mizrahi, the Israeli police officer convicted of manslaughter for the July 2006 killing of Mr. Mahammoud Ghanayim.
Mr. Ghanayim, a Palestinian Arab citizen of Israel, aged 24 from Baqa al-Garbiyyah, was shot in the head.
On 21 July 2010, the Israeli Supreme Court doubled a 15-month prison sentence imposed on Officer Mizrahi by the lower court to 30 months. In increasing the sentence, the Supreme Court emphasized that the deceased, Mr. Ghanayim, did not pose any threat to the officer’s life when Officer Mizrahi shot at him deliberately in close range.
Adalah Attorney Orna Kohn sent the 1 September 2010 letter after Adalah received internal Israeli police documentation revealing that Shahar Mizrahi received extraordinary financial assistance from the Israeli police for his legal defense. The internal Israeli police documentation uncovered the following:
1- Shahar Mizrahi received a total of NIS 350,000 (over USD $90,000) in financial assistance from the Israeli police for his legal defense. He received over NIS 161,000 for legal expenses in the criminal case against him, and a further sum of NIS 186,000 for the appeal process before the Supreme Court.
2- Shahar Mizrahi remained as an employee of the Israeli police after his indictment, after his conviction for manslaughter and after the Supreme Court rejected his appeal and doubled his sentence, despite internal and external demands for his removal and termination from the Israeli police.
In the letter, Attorney Kohn demanded explanations as to the criteria for receiving and approving financial assistance for legal defense to police personnel, and under what grounds Officer Mizrahi was granted this support. Adalah further sought clarifications as to whether the police held any deliberations regarding the return of these funds following the court decisions against Officer Mizrahi, and under what grounds and under whose authority the decision to retain Officer Mizrahi as an employee of the Israeli police was taken.
‘This is an extreme case whereby a police officer was indicted and convicted of manslaughter, appeals to the Supreme Court which upholds the conviction and doubles his sentence, and yet he remained a police officer throughout this entire process. The police gave him extraordinary financial assistance for his legal defense, essentially public money,’ stated Attorney Kohn.
Recently Adalah undertook related correspondence concerning this case. On 25 July 2010, Adalah sent a letter to the Minister of Justice and the Attorney General requesting that they do not support a request to pardon police officer Shahar Mizrahi.
Despite the clear condemnation, the Supreme Court’s decision to double Office Mizrahi’s sentence was met by an unprecedented wave of protest by police authorities, the Organization for the Rights of Police Officers as well as the Minister of Internal Security, who made a joint request to grant Officer Mizrahi a pardon to prevent his imprisonment. Adalah emphasized in the 25 July 2010 letter that, ‘Granting a pardon to Officer Mizrahi and not compelling him to serve his prison sentence is a green light for all police officers to use force illegally without fear of being held accountable for their behavior.’