Charges Against Israeli Social Activists Out of Proportion, Says Judge

The 14 activists brought to court on Wednesday were among the 89 detained last June for protesting against Daphni Leef's arrest.

Ilan Lior
Ilan Lior
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Ilan Lior
Ilan Lior

A Tel Aviv justice suggested Wednesday that Israel Police had inflated the charges against 14 of the social-justice activists arrested at a mass rally in June.

The 14 activists brought to court on Wednesday were among the 89 arrested on June 23, when about 6,500 people protested the previous day's arrest of Leef and 11 others for attempting to revive the tent encampment on Rothschild Boulevard.

Dozens of social activists – including MKs Nitzan Horowitz of Meretz, Hadash's Dov Knenin and Daniel Ben-Simon of Labor - gathered outside the courtroom during the hearing.

Inside, Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court Judge Limor Margolin-Yehidi said she was not convinced that all 14 cases should be combined. Most of the charges apparently are minor, and should be brought to a conclusion so that these normal citizens can return to their normal lives rather than spending time in a criminal court. The cases, she said, should be returned to their proper proportions.

All of the defendants were charged with participating in a demonstration. The charge sheet described the demonstration without specifying accusations against the accused. It said, The demonstrators marched towards Ibn Gvirol Street and damaged windows of the Israel Discount Bank on the corner of Ibn Gvirol and David Yellin streets and the display windows of Bank Hapoalim and Bank Leumi in the Gan Ha'ir compound. The demonstrators, including the accused, went on a rampage and threw eggs and water at police in Gan Ha'ir. According to police, demonstrators also attempted to block the Ayalon Freeway and key streets in the city.

In keeping with the judge's recommendation that the charges be made more specific, representatives of the police have scheduled a meeting with lawyers for the defendants. Another hearing in the case is set for mid-December.

The police request to have the 14 held in custody till the end of proceedings against them was rejected by Judge Tzachi Uziel, who noted that the accused did not have criminal records and that none had been charged with damaging bank windows during the rally. Though freedom and expression and the right to protest are basic rights, Uziel said they were not unlimited. Those who exercise those rights must do so, he said, while upholding the law, not causing disorder or endangering public safety.

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