Police in Jerusalem have arrested 224 Palestinians over the last week, among them 61 minors under the age of 18, on suspicion of rioting and throwing stones in East Jerusalem after the murder of Muhammed Abu Khdeir. Among the arrested are eight members of the Abu Khdeir family.
So far, 50 people have been charged and more arrests are expected. Lawyers defending those charged say the arrests were arbitrary and the evidence presented by police very weak.
During the course of the violent demonstrations in Jerusalem following the murder more than two weeks ago, police refrained from arresting participants. They preferred a policy of containment, which included breaking off contact with demonstrators while preventing them from blocking main traffic arteries and entrances into Jewish neighborhoods. Nevertheless, the police collected evidence by documenting the demonstrations and gathering intelligence. With this evidence, police swooped down on houses in Palestinian neighborhoods last week, detaining numerous people suspected of taking part in the demonstrations. Lawyers assert these arrests are arbitrary, since participants wore face masks.
Members of the Abu Khdeir family are angry at the arrest of eight family members. Meanwhile Tariq Abu Khdeir, who was arrested during the demonstrations and then caught on tape being beaten by border policemen (who are now under investigation) has left for the United States without being charged.
Attorney Yosef Knafo is representing an 18 year old man from the village of Umm Tuba who was arrested along with three other minors. At the first remand hearing the Magistrate Court judge determined the evidence to be flimsy and ordered their release. However, he acceded to police requests to delay their release by a day so the police could appeal. The District Court then extended their remand and last Thursday the four were charged with unlawful gathering and with throwing stones. All the police have is another detainee who said that he saw my client throwing a stone, and for that he has already been locked up for a week. These are children with no criminal records –these are scare tactics meant to prevent them from demonstrating, says Knafo.
The police refuted these claims, saying there is substantial evidence and that the policy is to reach everyone who was involved. There are ways of finding those with covered faces as well, said a senior police source in Jerusalem.
Disturbances continued over the weekend, with disturbances on the Temple Mount and in East Jerusalem neighborhoods.
On Friday morning, Jerusalem District Commander Maj. Gen. Yossi Pariente decided to limit the age of participants in Friday prayers to 50 and over. Despite this, when prayers ended, Palestinians started throwing stones and shooting firecrackers at police forces. Policemen stormed into the mosque compound and pushed demonstrators back into the al-Aqsa mosque. On Friday night, violent demonstrations also broke out in the neighborhoods of Isawiya, A-Tur and in the Qalandiya and Shuafat refugee camps.
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