Hundreds of Ethiopian-Israelis protest closing of suicide investigation

Julie Wiener

Israeli police use water cannons and grenades during heavy clashes to disperse Ethiopian-Israelis protesting in Tel Aviv against violence and racism directed at Israelis of Ethiopian descent, May 3, 2015. (Ben Kelmer/Flash90)

Ethiopian-Israelis protesting in Tel Aviv against violence and racism they say is directed at their community, May 3, 2015. (Ben Kelmer/Flash 90)

(JTA) — Hundreds of Ethiopian-Israelis protested a police decision to close the investigation into the 2014 death of a community member ruled a suicide.

At the Jerusalem demonstration on Tuesday, protesters alleging that the police were responsible for the death of Yosef Salamsa “intermittently blocked” a highway in front of police headquarters, the Times of Israel reported. Eight demonstrators were arrested.

On Feb. 14, the Israel Police announced they were closing the investigation into the death of Salamsa, who was Jewish.

The investigation found no evidence of criminal conduct by police officers, but several instances of misconduct warranted internal disciplinary steps, the Justice Ministry’s Police Investigation Unit said, according to the Times of Israel. The Police Investigation Unit is an external body that scrutinizes police misconduct.

READ: Why Ethiopian-Israelis took to Tel Aviv’s streets (2015)

Salamsa was found dead in a quarry in July 2014, but Ethiopian-Israeli activists have said his abuse months earlier at the hands of police officers — and subsequent harassment after he filed a complaint — contributed to what was ruled a suicide. His family has alleged that he may have been murdered.

While in police custody in March 2014, Salamsa was subjected to a taser but was never charged with a crime. He became severely depressed after the incident, spurring his family to file the complaint with the Police Investigation Unit.

Ethiopian-Israeli activists held several demonstrations in 2015 to protest racial discrimination and abuse against them by police.

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