Tuba Mosque Arson Suspect Freed Due to Lack of Evidence

Safed court upholds police order requiring media outlets to turn over all photographs and video of the riots that erupted in Tuba Zangaria after the arson.

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There is not currently enough evidence to indict the main suspect in last week's torching of a mosque in Tuba-Zangaria, Petah Tikva Magistrate's Court Judge Nitza Maimon-Shashua said yesterday.

Consequently, she warned, the suspect will be released on Sunday unless the police submit new evidence by then.

The burned-out mosque in Israeli Arab town Tuba Zangaria, victim of a radical settler 'price tag' attack in 2011. Credit: Yaron Kaminsky

Maimon-Shashua nevertheless agreed to extend the remand of the suspect until Sunday. However, she added, the investigation appears to have gone nowhere since the suspect, a young man from northern Israel, was arrested last week, and unless this changes, she will not extend his remand again.

Details of the probe remain under a gag order.

The suspect's attorney, Adi Keidar, said afterward: "The court's decision speaks for itself. The arguments we have been making since day one have turned out to be correct, and the court said so clearly; only because of the complexity of the case was the remand extended."

Today, a West Bank resident suspected of abetting the attack is also likely to be released, as the extension of his remand expires. He claims to have been at home when the arson occurred.

Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino visited Tuba-Zangaria yesterday and told residents he has set up a special task force to investigate the recent wave of "price tag" attacks - so called because they are ostensibly meant to exact a price, in the form of attacks on soldiers, Palestinians or Israeli Arabs, for house demolitions in the settlements.

"Ever since the onset of this wave of incidents called 'price tag' - in my view inappropriately, as this is a euphemism for serious and contemptible crimes - we have acted with determination," Danino said. "We will do everything possible not to allow this phenomenon to expand, and we will catch the perpetrators."

Also yesterday, the Safed Magistrate's Court upheld a police order from last week requiring media outlets to turn over all photographs and video of the riots that erupted in Tuba Zangaria after the arson.

Responding to a petition against the order by Haaretz, Yedioth Ahronoth and the Ynet Internet site, Judge Saaib Dabour wrote that while journalistic privilege is a very important value, in this case it was trumped by the public interest in solving a serious crime: The rioters blocked a main road and threw stones at passing cars.

Since police have no other source of evidence, he said, there is no choice but to subpoena the media images.

The attorneys for the media outlets had argued that this could deter media coverage of such incidents in the future, as journalists would henceforth be suspected of being adjuncts to the police. That would harm a vital public interest, they warned, adding that police should deploy their own cameras.

Meanwhile, in Paris, the office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights yesterday urged Israel to stop settlers from attacking Palestinians in the West Bank, and a spokesman accused the Israel Defense Forces of failing to restrain settlers despite being quick to use force against Palestinians.

"There appears to be certainly a partial siding with the settlers, and perhaps not intervening strongly enough to protect the Palestinian villagers," spokesman Rupert Colville told reporters in Geneva. As evidence, he cited the fatal shooting of a Palestinian by an Israeli soldier in the West Bank village of Qusra on September 23; the beating of two minors detained by troops the same day; and the uprooting of 200 olive trees in the village on October 6.

"The accountability for settler violence against Palestinians is less than adequate, let's say, and certainly not comparable to the reverse cases," said Colville. "When Palestinians attack settlers there's always very, very strong reaction."



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