It is still unclear whether Yusuf Hassan al-Ramouni took his own life or had it taken from him. What is clear is that Palestinians have every reason to doubt the police’s credibility.
The minute news came out late Sunday night that a Palestinian man was found hanged at an Egged bus depot in Jerusalem, Twitter was awash with speculations as to whether it was suicide or murder. Israel Police quickly issued a statement that it did not suspect foul play. “According to an initial investigation, it appears there is no suspicion of criminal activity, in other words a suicide,” police spokeswoman Luba Samri told the press.
But photos of the body of Yusuf Hassan al-Ramouni, 32, began circulating on Twitter showing bruises on his body indicating he was attacked before being hanged. The Palestinian Ma’an News Agency (Arabic) reported witnesses who claim six Israeli settlers attacked al-Ramouni, who worked as an Egged bus driver. Many Palestinians, including his family, insist this was not suicide but rather a lynch by Jews.
By around 5 p.m. on Monday, Israeli news sites reported that the autopsy – which was conducted at the Abu Kabir Forensic Institute, and included the participation of a Palestinian pathologist selected by al-Ramouni’s family – was completed and affirmed that there was no murder. Israel Police spokesperson Micky Rosenfeld tweeted assuredly that “findings are-incident not criminal related whatsoever.”
However, a Palestinian medical expert told Ma’an that the findings of the autopsy indicate that al-Ramouni did not die by suicide, but was in fact the victim of an “organized crime,” since, for example, “there was no dislocation in the first cervical vertebrae, which is usually found in cases of suicide by hanging.” The Palestinian new site Arabs 48 also reported these findings in more detail. The medical expert told Ma’an that more lab work was necessary to reach conclusive findings, which could take several months.
While we cannot yet confirm what exactly the circumstances of al-Ramouni’s death were, one cannot help but think of Israeli reactions to Mohammed Abu Khdeir’s brutal murder by immolation in July by Jewish extremists: rumors immediately circulated that he was killed by fellow Palestinians for being gay. Because the police had put a strict gag order on the case, the rumors were not immediately denied until suspects were found and it became clear that he was murdered for being Palestinian.
It is also important to note that Palestinian bus drivers who work for Egged have been assaulted several times in the past. According to a Palestinian resident of East Jerusalem I spoke to, several incidents took place during the Gaza War which were not reported on at all. Therefore when Palestinians heard al-Ramouni was found hanged at the bus terminal, it was not at all far-fetched for them to assume he was attacked by Jews. On Monday evening, Arab drivers for the Egged bus company in Jerusalem walked off the job in protest.
Furthermore, past experience proves there is no reason for Palestinians to trust the Israeli authorities. Quite the contrary. Both the police and the military often ignore complaints from Palestinians, and almost always fail to prosecute. According to Yesh Din, 92 percent of complaints filed by Palestinians in the West Bank against Israeli civilians are closed without indictment.
Most recently, police lied about the circumstances of the shooting of Palestinian citizen Khir Hamdan in Kafr Kanna, providing several versions of events until video footage proved he did not pose a threat when he was shot and no warning shots were fired.