Palestinian family rejects suicide verdict on driver found hanged on bus

The death has further inflamed an already volatile situation in Jerusalem

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The Independent Online

The family of a Palestinian bus driver who was found hanging in his vehicle in a Jewish part of Jerusalem late Sunday has refused to accept the Israeli police’s announcement that an inquest found the death to be a suicide.

The relatives are insisting that Yousef al-Ramouni, 32, was murdered by Israelis because he was Arab.

The death has further inflamed an already volatile situation in Jerusalem, setting off stone-throwing clashes and a general strike in some Arab areas. The refusal of Arabs to accept the Israeli verdict on the circumstances shows just how poisoned relations between Palestinians and Israelis have become.

A perceived threat to the status quo at Islam’s third holiest site, the al-Aqsa mosque compound, revered by Jews as the Temple Mount, has contributed to a wave of violence by Palestinians, including two car attacks in Jerusalem over the last month that killed four people.

“We have received the findings of the autopsy and there is no criminal perspective whatsoever. The guy committed suicide,” police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said last night after an inquest at Israel’s Abu Kabir Forensic Institute. A Palestinian pathologist, Saber al-Alul, reportedly participated in the autopsy but it was not known whether he agreed with its findings. The Palestinian news agency Maan quoted a Palestinian “medical expert” as saying the preliminary findings of the inquest were that the death resulted from an “organised killing”.

Osama al-Ramouni, Mr Ramouni’s brother, told Haaretz website that the forensic report found that there were signs of violence on the body. He and fellow bus drivers said Yousef al-Ramouni was not depressed or in a crisis. “My brother had everything in life, a million per cent he didn’t commit suicide, he had a great life,” Osama al-Ramouni said.

Mr Ramouni’s body was found in his vehicle in the bus depot in the Har Hotzvim area on Sunday night. From the outset, police said his death was a suicide, but rumours quickly swirled and Palestinian media reports labelled it a killing by “Jewish settlers”.

At Mr Roumani’s father’s house in Bethany, just outside Jerusalem, hundreds of mourners gathered, many of them drivers from the transport company where Mr Roumani worked. Hazem al-Tahan, a driver, said: “He is always cheerful. There is no reason for him to commit suicide.” Mr Tahan said that he and other Arab drivers sometimes encountered racist chants of “Death to the Arabs” when they traversed Ramat Shlomo, a Jewish settlement neighbourhood that was on Mr Roumani’s route.

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