The violence that erupted at Saturday's game between Bnei Sakhnin and Hapoel Tel Aviv was overshadowed yesterday by accusations that referee Assaf Keinan had fabricated events in his report that he had been punched by Saher Halaila.
Local television station Neptune released footage of the incident in which Halaila did not punch the referee, and the club released a statement accusing Keinan of feigning his injuries.
Neptune's footage shows Keinan walking to the dressing room under police escort after the game. Halaila at one point approaches Keinan in a threatening manner with his armed raised, open in the air, and the referee is thrown aside by one of the policemen.
Halaila seems to perhaps lightly shove Keinan, but in the footage, although contact was made, it looks like Halaila did not punch Keinan.
Haifa police chief Nir Mariash said that while Halaila could not be seen landing a punch in the television footage, assault could not be ruled out, and Halaila would be charged today. Halaila meanwhile remained under arrest yesterday.
Sakhnin spokesman Mundar Halaila said that the club had been libeled. "We watched the tape dozens of times, and it shows clearly that there was no physical contact between Halaila and Keinan.... It is a blood libel. Some of the media took part in it and we demand a public apology. We will take legal action against some of the media."
Sakhnin Mayor Mohammed Bashir also condemned media coverage of the event and accused it of finding Halaila guilty before the case even came to court. Bashir added that Sakhnin was an Arab-Jewish club and it would not allow racism to destroy what had been built at the club.
Keinan himself refused to comment yesterday and hired the services of attorney Ron Paska, who said: "The pictures speak for themselves. It is clear to everyone that this is a case of assault, and therefore Halaila will be charged."
The reaction among Keinan's fellow referees was mixed. "What's important is that the referee was attacked," said Danny Koren the chairman of the Israel Referees Association's professional committee.
However, another senior referee said off the record that it would have been preferable if Keinan had stated events as they actually happened in his report rather then claiming that he had been punched and had suffered injury.
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