East Jerusalem Palestinian Indicted Over Facebook Posts

In unusual move, state asks to keep Mahmoud Asila, accused of posting inciteful material in remand until end of legal proceedings.

Nir Hasson
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The rammed bus in Jerusalem, August 4, 2014.Credit: Roternik Press Group
Nir Hasson

An East Jerusalem man was charged this week with incitement for Facebook posts that called for killing soldiers and asked the Palestinian people to follow in the footsteps of a gunman who attempted to assassinate a prominent right-wing activist.

In an unusual move, the state is seeking to keep Mahmoud Asila, 31, in custody until the end of legal proceedings against him. The Jerusalem Magistrate's Court will hold a hearing Thursday on the state's remand request.

Namir Idilbi, Asila's lawyer, said the comments were satirical and that he had not intended to incite others to violence.

Asila is charged with inciting toward violence or terror, issuing threats, insulting a public servant, incitement toward racism and tampering with evidence (for asking his wife to delete content from his Facebook page after he was arrested). According to the charge sheet, he called for the killing of the Nahshon unit fighters who shot and killed Mohammed Jaabis, who commandeered an excavator, killed a pedestrian and overturned a bus in Jerusalem in early August.

In a comment on a video that he posted on his page, Asila wrote, “The murderers of martyr Mohammed al-Jaabis, I don’t intend to respond, nor to make a video, dog, son of a dog, the response I leave to you.”

The scene of the shooting of Yehuda Glick in Jerusalem, October 29, 2014.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi

In another post, after the terror attack near the capital’s Ammunition Hill that killed a baby and a young woman, Asila posted a video in which he says, “Good evening. My condolences to the Shaludis on the promotion of the martyr Abdel Rahman Shaludi [who rammed the car into disembarking light rail passengers], a week ago; my condolences to the parents of Hijazi [Muataz Hijazi, who tried to murder Yehuda Glick] on the promotion to martyr of Muataz Hijazi this morning, a prayer for his soul and may the entire Palestinian people do what he did.”

Idilbi said his client considers himself a comic.

"The defendant classifies himself as a comic who is posting satirical comments," Idilbi said. He said that even if some of the comments represent opinions that "people don't like to hear," they are still personal opinions and represent no intention to incite others to violence or racist behavior.

Idilbi also said the state's unusual decision to keep his client in custody until the end of proceedings indicates selective enforcement of the law.

Asila's indictment was filed by attorney Shachar Malul, and has the approval of Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein.

In recent months two other indictments were filed for incitement on social media, both against Jews who set up Facebook pages that called for harming Arabs. But this is the first time the state has asked to keep the accused in custody until the end of legal proceedings.

Four months ago the Reform Movement’s Israel Religious Action Center and other groups petitioned the High Court of Justice demanding the prosecution of those operating the Facebook page (since taken down) of the Lehava group, which fights Arab-Jewish intermarriage. According to the petition, the page included content that constituted racist incitement and incitement to violence, but neither police nor prosecutors took any steps against it. The state’s response to the petition has yet to be submitted.

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