driver -  Ilan Assyag - 10012012
The driver, who asked not to be identified. Photo by Ilan Assyag
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A chance cell-phone recording of a driver being accosted violently by policemen proved enough to get charges that had been filed against the driver dropped.

During the incident in March, the driver, a Druze teacher who lives on the Golan Heights, accidently rang his fiancee, who did not answer. As a result, an exchange between the driver and the police was recorded on the fiancee's voice mailbox.

A policeman can be heard screaming at the driver, "Drop the cell phone! Are you going to drop it or not? Drop it, drop it or I'll put two more in your mouth!" Also audible is the sound of the driver begging and crying for mercy, though his words can't be made out.

The incident occurred as the driver was returning home after visiting his fiancee in the Galilee. At about 1:45 A.M., he noticed a car behind him flashing its lights, as if signaling him to stop.

"I was scared. I didn't know whether to stop or keep going," he told Haaretz. In the end he decided to pull over near the Rosh Pina junction.

"I opened the car window and a man came over and asked, 'Why were you talking on your cell phone?' It was a civilian car, with no police markings, and the guy was in civilian clothes," the driver said.

"So I asked him, 'Who the heck are you?' And he answered, 'Now you'll see who I am.' I was frightened and wanted to pull away, but he reached over to take the car keys and then punched me."

Realizing that the man was an undercover policeman, the driver told him, "Well, if you're a policeman you're not behaving properly and now I'm recording you."

The driver didn't actually activate his cell phone's recording feature, but, he said, his warning apparently angered the policeman, who called for backup. Within a few minutes, a traffic police patrol car pulled up and a uniformed policeman ordered him out of the car.

The driver refused, demanding to know why he should get out. At that point, he said, the backup cop sprayed him with pepper spray, "and they pulled me out of the car and started to rough me up." He also said the officers tried to get the cell phone out of his hand.

At some point the driver accidently pressed the "send" button on his phone, which rang his fiancee, who did not answer. As a result, the 41-second recording of the encounter was left on her voice mailbox.

The driver was indicted for interfering with a policeman performing his duty. The charge sheet said that he had refused to identify himself and tried to flee the scene.

But when the indictment was filed with Safed Magistrate's Court Judge Saaib Dabour, the accused showed the judge the blood-stained shirt he had worn that night, and surprised everyone by playing the recording. Dabour said the recording indeed seemed to reinforce the accused's claims, and ordered the case heard as soon as possible.

The hearing was held a week and a half ago, with the accused represented by Nazih Abu-Raia of the Public Defender's Office.

After replaying the recording, Abu-Raia argued that "aside from the fact that the accused was questioned under the influence of pepper spray, needed medical attention and was not allowed to consult with a lawyer, it isn't clear why the policeman demanded the cell phone if he had indeed identified himself properly and had acted properly. They attacked [the accused] and stamped on his hand to get the cell phone."

At the end of the hearing, the police prosecution department decided to withdraw the indictment, and the judge ordered the charges dropped.