Tel Aviv Court Slams Police Over Handling of Charges Against Israeli Social Protest Activists

Judge criticizes non-timely manner in which police are turning over evidentiary material to the defense team representing demonstrators involved in social justice protests.

Ilan Lior
Ilan Lior
Ilan Lior
Ilan Lior

A Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court judge took the police to task Sunday for the non-timely manner in which they are turning over evidentiary material to the defense team representing demonstrators involved in a social justice protest in Tel Aviv this summer.

Judge Limor Margolin-Yehidi also postponed the hearing on the indictments that are actively moving forward. The number of those indictments has been halved, to seven.

In Sunday’s hearing it emerged that Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein had ordered a delay in two of the original 14 indictments, a further drop after five of the indictments were ditched in December. Police had arrested 89 protesters at the June 23 rally.

“I doubt that there will be a need to conduct complex hearings on the investigative material if in the end the mountain has become a molehill without my having done anything,” said Margolin-Yehidi.

In December police said they were dropping five indictments against demonstrators accused solely of participating in an illegal gathering and improper conduct in a public place. The police agreed to lessen, but not drop, some of the other charges, which include assaulting a police officer, undermining a police officer and resisting arrest.

Margolin-Yehidi has previously suggested the police inflated the charges and called on both sides to reach a compromise out of court.

Shortly before Sunday’s hearing began, the police gave the defense attorneys additional material on the cases. An attorney for one of the defendants, Avigdor Feldman, told the judge they had no idea what the material entailed and could not proceed under those circumstances.

The attorney for the police, Aviv Bar-Or, said the material was video footage of the demonstrations, and that time had been needed to collect it.

“The court is aware of the complexity that could be involved in examining and locating the investigative materials,” Margolin-Yehidi said. “But it is not clear to the court, even after receiving explanations, why these materials were given to the defense only this morning, in a manner that makes it impossible to discuss the essence of the matter.”

The judge also criticized the police for not responding to requests by the accused to provide other materials involving the protest, which took place at Tel Aviv’s Gan Ha’ir shopping center. “Under these circumstances, we will not allow discussion to proceed on the essence of the matter in this hearing,” the judge said.

Because Margolin-Yehidi is about to go on sabbatical, she said she would be postponing the hearing of the actual indictments − after another judge hears the matter of presentation of the investigative materials − to October.

“Not for nothing did the judge say today that in the end this will be seen as making a mountain out of a molehill,” said Gaby Lasky, the lawyer representing one of the protesters. “The judge criticized [the police] over their having handed over to us only this morning a tape they have had for some time, and for not responding to our requests for other materials in the case.”

The police are “not interested in going forward with the case and have not found another way to get out of the corner they have painted themselves into,” said Lasky.

ALL SMILES: Social activists getting their day in court. Sunday, March 3, 2013 Credit: Ofer Vaknin

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