An Israeli Border Police officer has been charged with reckless homicide following the murder of Eyad Al-Hallaq, an autistic Palestinian resident of East Jerusalem.
The 20-year-year-old Border Police officer had charges filed by the police misconduct investigation unit today and faces up to 12 years in prison.
Al-Hallaq was a 32-year-old resident of the neighbourhood Wadi Joz in occupied East Jerusalem. Diagnosed at a young age, he had low-functioning autism and the mind of an eight-year-old child. After hearing Israeli officers yelling and running away in panic, Al-Hallaq was shot in the chest twice on the way to a special needs school in the Old City on 30 May 2020.
Following the shooting, the Border Police issued a statement claiming that two officers believed Al-Hallaq was carrying a gun and chased him, shooting him dead in a garbage room only metres away from the special needs school which he attended. Al-Hallaq’s caregiver, Warda Abu Hadid, who was at the scene during his murder, recalled shouting: “He is disabled, he is disabled!” in Hebrew at the police.
At the time of his death, Israeli officers present claimed he was a terrorist because he was wearing gloves, and an investigation was opened into the case. Al-Hallaq’s mother had said that he was autistic and did not understand the orders that the officers gave. Witnesses then stated that a policeman fired bullets at Al-Hallaq and prevented ambulances from providing him aid.
In the wake of the incident, protests erupted in Jerusalem and Jaffa. Internationally, Al-Hallaq’s shooting drew comparisons to the case of the murder of unarmed Black man George Floyd in Minneapolis, eliciting smaller rallies against police brutality in the US.
The Israeli occupation authorities had released the indicted officer from detention in June 2020, just one day after he fired fatal shots at Al-Hallaq and left him to bleed to his death inside the Old City’s Lion’s Gate. Though the recent indictment was initially due to be filed in March 2021, a petition to the Supreme Court by the officer’s defence counsel caused it to be postponed.
According to Haaretz, a statement released last October from the Justice Ministry unit that investigated the case stated: “The deceased posed no danger to police and civilians in the area,” and that the officer who murdered him was not following orders but shot him of his own accord.