The arrest of Fadel Tamimi: Did case of mistaken identity put Palestinian man behind bars?

A 52-year-old Palestinian taxi driver has been held in Israeli detention for the past two weeks on allegations by a soldier that the driver had thrown stones at him.

By Amira Hass: Haaaretz, 6 May 2011

A 52-year-old Palestinian taxi driver and father of nine has been held in Israeli detention for the past two weeks on allegations by a soldier that the driver had thrown stones at him a week earlier, and that one of the stones had hit the soldier in the leg. Fadel Tamimi claimed he was arrested in a case of mistaken identity and had not thrown stones at the soldier.

The military judge in Tamimi’s case, Maj. Avraham Einhorn, ordered Tamimi held in custody until the end of proceedings against him. Tamimi’s lawyer appealed the detention order, and the appeal was initially to have been heard on Wednesday of this week, but has been postponed until next Sunday.

Tamimi was detained on April 22 at a temporary checkpoint at the entrance to the village of Nebi Salah near Ramallah in the West Bank. The soldier, Yitzhak Dahan of the Givati Brigade, stopped Tamimi’s taxi, saying that he identified Tamimi as one of a number of people who had been throwing stones at him and other soldiers a week before inside the village.

Dahan told a police investigator that there are breaches of the peace every Friday and that he and other soldiers entered the village on the day in question, a Friday, to “deal with events” when they were met with stones. He said he particularly noted that one of the stone throwers was an older man who threw dozens of stones, one of which hit him, although he said it did not injure him.

Dahan identified the stone thrower as Tamimi, whom he said he had also seen on YouTube video clips speaking about the situation in Nebi Salah. Dahan said the stone thrower was not pursued at the time because the troops were ordered to leave the village.

Tamimi told investigators that he did not throw stones at Dahan and had not appeared on YouTube. He said he had recently suffered a heart attack and was hospitalized for three weeks, and would not have engaged in stone throwing. He also said that at the time of the stone-throwing incident, he was in Ramallah and provided the telephone numbers of two other taxi drivers who could corroborate his account. The investigator said he was unable to reach one of the drivers by phone and the call to the other would not go through because he was unable to call numbers on the Palestinian Wataniya cellular network from the phone at his disposal.

Tamimi’s lawyer, Limor Goldstein, said the evidence against Tamimi is weak and the investigation was poorly handled. Goldstein said no complaint was filed at the time of the incident, no genuine effort was made to investigate his alibi and no effort made to find the YouTube clips to which Dahan referred.