Friday, April 17, 2015

17-Apr-15: In the aftermath of another lethal car-ramming in Jerusalem

The driver is now arrested
Wednesday night's car-ramming of Israeli commuters standing at a French Hill, Jerusalem, bus stop [reported here] has resulted in the arrest of the driver of the ramming vehicle.

The Jerusalem Post says Khaled Koutineh, a 37 year-old Palestinian Arab resident of the village of Anata, east of Jerusalem, "was motivated by nationalistic reasons to drive his vehicle" into Shalom Yohai Cherki, 25, and Shira Klein, 20. The two were standing together at the French Hill bus stop on Haim Bar Lev Boulevard in north Jerusalem. Cherki, son of a prominent family, suffered severe traumatic head trauma and died soon after the attack. Shira Klein is fighting for her life in hospital. The vehicle driven by the accused struck them at high speed.

A statement last night [Thursday] by Israel Police indicated that the car-ramming was likely an act of terror. Today's report, after the police interrogation had gone on for some hours, said there was cause to believe
that Khaled Koutineh, 37, from Anata, was motivated by nationalistic reasons to drive his vehicle into Cherki and Shira Klein, who is in her 20s, and remains hospitalized. “After the suspect was questioned, the preliminary findings reinforced that the incident was an attack; however, the investigation is continuing,” police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said on Thursday. Koutineh was arraigned at Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court earlier in the day, where a judge extended his remand through Monday. His lawyer, Nasser Massis, claimed that Koutineh is not a terrorist, but rather lost control of the vehicle due to inclement driving conditions. “My client denied all involvement in criminal activity. [He] claim[s] this was a normal traffic accident that was not unreasonable given the circumstances,” Massis said. “There was heavy rainfall and the defendant believes the court will ultimately release him.”
The alleged attacker's wife explained [Times of Israel] her husband's innocence. He had left his house at around 10 p.m. Wednesday to drive his parents to their home in Jerusalem’s Old City and the accident was "caused by the bad weather at the time... He has no political awareness. He doesn’t even watch the news,” she said."

UPDATE April 30, 2015: Police released video footage today showing just how politically unaware the driver was: view it here. Khaled Koutineh has confessed to carrying out the car-ramming attack. A criminal indictment against him was filed in Jerusalem on Monday April 27, 2015.

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