JERUSALEM (Reuters) - A Palestinian bus driver was found hanged in his vehicle on Monday, an incident that led to stone-throwing protests by Palestinians suspecting foul play but which Israeli police, citing autopsy results, termed a suicide.
Youssef al-Ramouni, 32, was found dead at the start of the route he was supposed to have driven late on Sunday, in a district of Jerusalem close to Jewish settlements and Palestinian neighbourhoods.
“The autopsy findings have shown that there was no foul play, meaning that this was a suicide,” police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said.
But lawyer Mohammed Mahmoud, who was retained by the family to follow the case, told Reuters: “I totally reject and deny the Israeli claim Youssef committed suicide.”
He said Palestinian pathologist Saber Al-Aloul, who observed the autopsy, had also disagreed with the verdict.
Aloul could not be reached for comment but Mahmoud said results of a toxicology test were still pending, “to determine whether Youssef was drugged before he was killed”.
Rumours spread in the Palestinian media that Ramouni had been killed by Jewish assailants.
In Abu Dis, a Palestinian town on the outskirts of Jerusalem, shops closed after news of the driver’s death and masked youngsters blocked roads with dumpsters. Dozens of youths threw stones at Israeli soldiers, who fired tear gas.
Before the autopsy findings were announced, Ramouni’s brother Louy told Reuters there was no way that Youssef, the father of two young children, would have killed himself.
“I saw the body last night and I saw bruises and marks that (showed that) he was beaten up,” he said.
“There were marks of fingers on the body and also on his back there was a bruise, as if he was hit by a hard object.”
Over the past month, five Israelis and a foreign visitor have been deliberately run over and killed or stabbed to death by Palestinians. About a dozen Palestinians have been killed, including those accused of carrying out the attacks.
Residents trace the violence in Jerusalem back to July, when a Palestinian teenager was burned to death by Jewish assailants, an alleged revenge attack for the abduction and killing of three Jewish teens by Palestinian militants in the occupied West Bank.
Other triggers have been the summer war in Gaza and a row over access to a Jerusalem compound sacred to Muslims and Jews alike.
Additional reporting by Ali Sawafta in Ramallah; Writing by Allyn Fisher-Ilan; Editing by Jeffrey Heller and Kevin Liffey