Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court on Thursday sentenced two police officers to community service and a suspended prison term for assaulting a protestor at a Ramat Gan demonstration against Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in June 2005.

One of the officers, Eran Naim, was convicted of assault for inserting his fingers into then 19-year-old Akiva Vitkin's nostrils and using them to pull his head over backwards in order to cause pain and neutralize him. 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 also convicted of assaulting Vitkin while he was in custody at Ramat Gan police station. Vitkin was handcuffed and seated on a table with his back against the wall. 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, to be applied to any violent crime conviction in the next three years.

The two were ordered to sign a monetary commitment to refrain from violent crime, in order to avoid a four-month active prison sentence.

Presiding judge Chanan Efrati said that limits on the use of force to impose law and order must be clear and firm, in order to prevent them from being interpreted in a non-uniform manner, which Efrati said put Israel at risk of eventually becoming a violent society.

Efrati said he was convinced that Naim had been quick to use unnecessary force on several occasions, and failed to adequately alter his behavior following two prior violent crime convictions.

The judge ruled that Eliran's behavior lacked self-restraint, and was an improper and illegal personal imposition of justice.

Naim said in response to the sentence that he had been sent to uphold the law, while the protestor was breaking the law. The officer said he would appeal the sentence at the district court, and even the Supreme Court should that be necessary.

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