Judge orders release of Palestinian after video proves soldiers used unreasonable force
Palestinian man from Hebron held in custody for nearly a month after soldiers in plainclothes dragged and kicked him because they mistakenly thought he cursed them.
A military court judge on Wednesday ordered the immediate and unconditional release of a Palestinian taken into custody about three weeks ago in Hebron by Israel Defense Forces soldiers, saying the soldiers, who dressed in civilian clothes, used unreasonable force and may have exceeded their authority. The confrontation with the Palestinian was caught on video.
In his decision the judge, Maj. Daniel Kfir, stated, “As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words, and from the video it’s clear that the respondent was attacked by a soldier apparently in civilian dress, through no fault of his own, because he [the soldier] thought the respondent had spoken disparagingly to him.”
The judge added: “Much has been said about the limits of power and the restrictions of power and one can see in this instance an example of unreasonable use of force by soldiers in civilian clothes, who it isn’t clear even had the authority to distance the respondent from the area and to arrest him.”
The video, shot near Tel Rumeida in Hebron, shows a group of soldiers from Battalion 931 of the Nahal Brigade dragging a Palestinian into a stairwell. It documents the developing confrontation between a soldier and the Palestinian near a guard post in the area. The soldier, who was apparently jogging nearby, demanded that the Palestinian come with him, but the latter refused.
Within seconds, a number of other soldiers, all in running clothes, appear on the scene. The Palestinian tries to fend off the soldier, who tells him “Don’t touch me.” At that point, there is a physical confrontation, in which the Palestinian is half-dragged, half-carried down the road by four soldiers, with other soldiers in civilian clothes around them.
The video shows one of the soldiers kicking the Palestinian as he is being taken to a nearby building. It also shows one uniformed soldier (who was apparently stationed at the guard post) approaching the group and leaving as the Palestinian is dragged away by the plainclothes soldiers.
At the same time, one of the soldiers at the scene calls to the person shooting the video “Go back, go back! Look at me, look at me, go back,” and prevents the photographer from getting any closer.
Another video obtained by the B’Tselem human rights organization and shown in Military Court on Wednesday documents the moments preceding Fahouri’s arrest, which are not seen on the first video. In that video, Fahouri had not confronted the soldiers, but was speaking in Arabic to another person at the scene (his brother, according to B’Tselem), saying “It’s all shit,” in Arabic.
One of the plainclothes soldiers, who apparently thought Fahouri was cursing him, approached. The soldier says to Fahouri, “What did you say? That I’m shit? Yalla, come here, come here,” and tries to grab Fahouri who responds, “I wasn’t talking to you, I wasn’t talking to you.” Several other soldiers, all in shorts and T-shirts, approach and grab Fahouri, dragging him into the building down the street.
The video contradicts the response at the time of the IDF Spokesman's Office, which claimed that the Palestinian “confronted an IDF force at the scene, which isn’t seen in the video, and the soldiers in question, who found themselves at the scene, helped the force carry out its mission.” It should be noted that the IDF Spokesman’s response was based on reports by soldiers at the scene.
Fahouri has been in jail since the incident three weeks ago. He was released on Wednesday, after the video was played in court by attorney Neri Ramati of the Gaby Lasky and Partners law offices.