Palestinian dies in Israeli police detention, sparking inquiry

An East Jerusalem Palestinian man died in unclear circumstances on Wednesday while being held by Israeli Police, with his family claiming he may have been beaten while in custody.

Abdu Yousef al-Khatib al-Tamimi, 43, died after being detained by police for traffic violations. He was taken to the Russian Compound, a detention facility in central Jerusalem.

According to the Israel Prisons Service (IPS), al-Tamimi was found unconsciousness in his cell three days after his arrest. Although medics sought to revive him, they were unsuccessful and he died on the spot, the IPS said.

In a statement, the IPS pledged to look into al-Tamimi’s death “as with any other such incident.”

Al-Tamimi was married and a father of four, all residents of East Jerusalem’s Shuafat Refugee Camp. This was his ninth arrest, mostly for similar traffic violations, said his lawyer Khaldoun Najm.

A view of the entrance to the Russian Compound detention center in Jerusalem, on March 12. 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Najm said that the family believed al-Tamimi may have been beaten, and demanded an autopsy. The family also denies that al-Tamimi suffered from any chronic illness that could have explained his sudden demise.

According to Najm, al-Tamimi’s relatives received a phone call from prisoners in the detention facility warning them that they had heard blows from his cell on the night he died.

“We don’t know exactly how he died… but detainees called the family from the jail and told them that he was being beaten and there were screams,” Najm said in a phone call.

Family members have recounted a similar story in Palestinian media, although it is unclear how the detainees managed to get in touch with them from inside the facility.

The lawyer said the family is demanding that a Palestinian doctor join a planned state-administered autopsy of al-Tamimi’s body at the Abu Kabir forensics institute in Tel Aviv.

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