Police Officer Charged With Assaulting Activist in 2012 Protest

Officer accused of hauling demonstrator into Tel Aviv municipal building and punching him twice in the face; police had previously accused the man of assaulting an officer.

Ilan Lior
Ilan Lior
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Ilan Lior
Ilan Lior

A police officer has been charged with assaulting a demonstrator during a social-justice protest in Tel Aviv in June 2012 that turned violent, when participants broke the windows of a number of banks along the city's Ibn Gabirol Street.

The Justice Ministry’s department for the investigation of police officers charged Ronen Arov, a member of the special forces unit (known by its Hebrew acronym, Yasam), with assaulting a suspect after his arrest during the June 23, 2012 protest.

According to the indictment, after arresting Tom Yisraeli, Arov and a second officer, Shai Mashilkar, brought him into the nearby municipality building where Arov and Mashilkar held Yisraeli on either side and, with no reason or justification, Arov punched Yisraeli twice in the face.

Arov's attorney, Ofer Bartal, rejected the accusations against his client and said he will try to prove to the court that Arov did not use his fists and that the photographs obtained by the prosecution are misleading. "We trust that the court will reach the right conclusions," Bartal said.

Last week a stay of proceedings was issued in the case against Yisraeli, who a few months ago was charged, by the prosecution unit of the Israel Police, with assaulting an officer and participating in an unlawful assembly in connection with the demonstration.

Yisraeli's lawyer, Gaby Lasky, welcomed the decision to postpone the prosecution of her client. “I’m glad that at the end of the day, the authorities accepted the defense’s position and decided to withdraw the indictment against Tom and indict the real attacker,” she said.

“This isn’t the first time that a violent police officer has hidden behind false accusations of violence against the man he himself attacked. The time has come for the police to deal with this phenomenon on a system-wide basis. What started as an indictment against many demonstrators with a request for remand until the end of proceedings has turned out to be a farce. All the authorities need to state clearly that the police must protect the rights of demonstration and free expression, and not prevent them.”

At the same time, however, a high-ranking police officer who was charged with brutality against another protester was recently acquitted.

The publication of a video in which Chief Superintendent Yossi Sperling appeared to be choking Maya Gorkin caused a storm of protest and led to an investigation against Sperling by the same Justice Ministry unit that has indicted Arov.

Sperling was brought up on disciplinary charges, while the criminal charges against him were later dismissed.

"We’re glad that in the end, the police came to the correct conclusion that Chief Superintendent Sperling used appropriate, even restrained force in the rioting that was in progress,” said Bartal, who also represents Sperling.

“The entire incident lasted three- to four-tenths of a second. A frame-by-frame analysis of the video shows that no choking took place. There was no contact at all with [Gorkin's] neck, but rather with her shoulders. [Sperling] held her by both shoulders and pulled her forward, toward him. That's all," Bartal said.

The police prosecution department has issued charges around 40 social activists over the past few months. In the wake of criticism by the court, five of the 14 indictments served against participants in the June protest were withdrawn.

In a session in the Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court on March 3, where the cases were heard, 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.

At the March 3 hearing Judge Limor Margolin-Yehidi said, "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.

By way of clarification she added, "When I spoke about the mountain becoming a molehill I was referring to the number of indictments that will remain."

Attorney Avigdor Feldman, who represents several of the defendants, said, "The mountain really is a molehill, and it smells of rat."

Police arrest a demonstrator during a protest for social justice in Tel Aviv.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum
Police arrest protest leader Daphni Leef in Tel Aviv, June 22, 2012. Credit: Alon Ron

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