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Hospital files complaint after cops tase Palestinian who was cuffed to hospital bed

Two police officers tased a Palestinian suspect in their custody while he was cuffed to a hospital bed last week, prompting the medical center to file a complaint to the Police Internal Investigations Department, Health Minister Moshe Arbel said on Thursday.

The incident took place on July 27 after the suspect arrived at the emergency room in Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center and doctors treating him believed he was not in control of his actions and having a psychotic episode, according to a letter Arbel penned to the hospital’s staff and administrators updating them on the incident.

The suspect — a 21-year-old resident of East Jerusalem — was given sedatives and managed to calm down after several hours. Doctors decided to discharge the patient but before they did, the two officers escorting the detainee closed the curtains around his bed to which the detainee was cuffed by his hand and leg. One of them then proceeded to tase the suspect, Arbel said.

One of the doctors treating him heard the electric shock and asked the apprehending officer if he indeed used it against the patient. The officer confirmed that he had. The doctor responded that this had been an unnecessary use of violence against a suspect who did not pose a threat to doctors or police. She also refused to discharge the patient until the two officers who were involved in the incident completed their shift in order to better ensure the suspect’s safety, said Arbel, who added that the hospital filed a complaint to the PIID on Thursday.

The health minister hailed the conduct of the doctors on site that day, saying it compelled him to reach out to the entire hospital to express his gratitude and make clear that he expects all medical staff to operate in the same manner, ensuring the health and safety of patients regardless of their background.

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After the Haaretz daily published a report Thursday revealing the incident, police issued a response flatly denying the account shared by the health minister.

Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem (photo credit: Yossi Zamir/Flash90)

Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem (Yossi Zamir/Flash90)

It made a point in highlighting that the suspect was seen holding a knife “suspiciously” in the Old City of Jerusalem and was arrested by cops on suspicion that he was trying to carry out a stabbing attack. After he was apprehended, the suspect lost control and tried to head-butt an officer, spat on another and bashed his own head into the floor, police said. A court agreed to keep the suspect behind bars but ordered he be sent to the hospital first for treatment.

After his arrival, “and completely contrary to what was claimed, the suspect began to go berserk and tried to attack police officers who were accompanying him, causing harm to himself and medical equipment, even while he was handcuffed,” police said in a statement. “The suspect poured a glass of water on the police officer guarding him, ranted, violently shook the bed… banged his head against the wall, tried to pull out his IV, hit an officer and threw a jar at him. After being warned several times, and in order to control him… a Taser was used on him.”

Police protocol bars officers from tasing a cuffed detainee, except in self-defense. A suspect must be warned before a taser is employed against them and officers are barred from using tasers against a suspect suffering from a medical condition.

In his own statement to Haaretz, Shaare Zedek’s deputy director Dan Turner said, “The hospital is committed to providing equal and empathetic care to all. We express our disgust at the attack on a helpless patient bound to a bed in the hospital. This act is both disturbing and illegal, and it’s why we decided to contact the police to investigate this difficult case.”

Public defense lawyer Nathaniel Lagami decried the abuse of detainees, adding that he expected that such cases will be investigated “while making it clear that in the Israel Police, there is no place for violent behavior by police officers.”