The Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court yesterday sentenced two police officers to community service and suspended prison terms for beating a protester in June 2005 at a Ramat Gan demonstration against Israel's Gaza Strip withdrawal.

One of the officers, Eran Naim, was convicted of assault for putting his fingers in then 19-year-old Akiva Vitkin's nostrils and using them to pull him backward. Naim was sentenced to six months of community service and a one-year suspended prison term, to be applied to any violent-crime conviction in the next three years.

Naim's second-in-command, Abraham Eliran, was convicted of assaulting Vitkin while he was in custody. Vitkin was handcuffed and seated on a table when Eliran struck him in the face and stomach, saying "We will get you in the end." He was sentenced to three months community service and a six-month suspended prison term.

Presiding judge Chanan Efrati said limits on force to enforce law must be clear and firm to prevent Israel from becoming a violent society. Efrati said he was convinced Naim had been quick to use unnecessary force on several occasions, and failed to adequately alter his behavior following two prior violent-crime convictions.