Policeman faces manslaughter charge over death of Ethiopian Israeli

Jerusalem (AFP) –


An Israeli policeman is to be indicted for "manslaughter" over the killing of a young man of Ethiopian origin in June, an incident that sparked widespread protests, police said Tuesday.

Solomon Teka, 19, was killed by an unnamed off-duty policeman in Kiryat Haim, near the northern port city of Haifa on June 30.

Teka's death sparked three days of nationwide protests that were often violent over longstanding grievances of Ethiopian-Israelis, who say they are discriminated against and targeted by police.

The policeman, who was placed under house arrest in the weeks following the killing, is accused of manslaughter, according to the findings of a police investigation.

"He used his weapon in a way that put the victim's life in danger," the findings said.

"He did not just fire a warning shot in the air to neutralise the danger he faced."

Initially, the police reported that the policeman had come across a fight between young men and had tried to intervene.

After the officer identified himself, the youths threw stones at him and he opened fire after feeling his life was in danger, the police statement said.

But the other young men and a passer-by said the policeman was not attacked, Israeli media reported.

"The policeman involved in the incident has been relieved of his duties in the police force," police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said Tuesday, indicating the killing was not motivated by racism.

There are some 140,000 Ethiopian-Israelis, of whom around 50,000 were born in the Jewish state. They are Jewish, but say they are in many cases still seen as outsiders.

Most are descendants of communities cut off from the Jewish world for centuries, who were belatedly recognised as Jews by Israeli religious authorities.

Israel took in tens of thousands of them in the 1980s and 1990s.

The community has consistently complained of institutionalised racism.

Thousands of Ethiopian-Israelis took to the streets of Tel Aviv in January after a young community member was shot dead by a police officer when he allegedly rushed at him holding a knife.