A Jerusalem court on Monday convicted two Israeli police of negligent homicide for abandoning an injured Palestinian man on a roadside, where he was found dead two days later.
The case has raised questions about failures that led to the death of Omar Abu Jarban, a car thief from the Gaza Strip who illegally lived in Israel. The man was passed from medical officials to prison and police authorities before he died.
Abu Jarban was still wearing hospital pants when he was left on the side of an Israeli highway near the West Bank at night in June, 2008. One of the policemen testified he thought the man would be picked up by a passing Palestinian motorist.
"The defendants were closed off to the distress of a human being and left him to his fate in circumstances that any reasonable human being would have avoided and refrained from doing," said Judge Haim Li-Ran in an almost 1,000-page ruling.
"The decision to drop this detainee in the circumstances that he was dropped off under, in the unlikely assumption that he would be picked up, is negligent. A reasonable person with eyes in his head and compassion in his heart would not accept these circumstances," Li-Ran said.
Abu Jarban was injured while driving a car he had stolen the month before, according to court documents. He was treated in two Israeli hospitals for his injuries.
Israeli hospitals routinely provide medical treatment for Palestinians, even if they are in the country illegally, and even if they are convicted criminals.
After several weeks of treatment, Abu Jarban was transferred to police custody. He was meant to be referred to a prison medical facility for further care. But a prison clinic refused to treat him, and the two policemen then decided to abandon him on the roadside. His dehydrated body was found two days later.
A sentencing date was not set. A lawyer for the police officers said they would appeal the verdict. A police spokesman declined to comment.
Although the treatment of Abu Jarban was unusual in its severity, a noted critic of Israeli occupation of the West Bank said it showed how the decades-long conflict has hardened Israelis.
"After 45 years of occupation, people get used to all kinds of distortions ... but sometimes there's an event that is so unusual, and it's like a metaphor," author David Grossman, who wrote a front-page editorial on the case in the Haaretz daily several weeks ago, said in an interview.
"Such an event casts a light on so many aspects of our lives that we prefer not to notice," he said.
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