Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein has ordered legal authorities to freeze the criminal proceedings against social protest leader Daphni Leef, deciding not to wait for a police investigation into the issue.
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Weinstein believes the case against Leef, a leader of the 2011 social protests, should be closed, as should those against other protesters not accused of serious crimes and who have no prior convictions, Haaretz has learned.
The police, whose prosecutors filed most of the indictments in question, disagree with him. By law, if the attorney general issues an order to stay, or freeze, the proceedings, they must be stayed, and most of the cases – those involving misdemeanors – would likely then be closed within a year.
Leef was arrested at a protest held on Tel Aviv’s Rothschild Boulevard on June 22, 2012. During the arrest, her hand was injured and she needed medical treatment.
She is charged with rioting, interfering with a policeman in the line of duty and using force or threats to prevent arrest.
A few months ago, as part of a mediation process, police prosecutors suggested a plea bargain under which Leef would perform community service but wouldn’t be formally convicted, and therefore wouldn’t be saddled with a criminal record. But she refused, insisting the indictment should be canceled.
A week ago, a trial court began hearing evidence in her case. Shortly afterward, however, Weinstein said he wanted to review the case file. As a result, another hearing that had been scheduled for this past Monday was canceled.
Leef’s attorney, Gaby Lasky, told Haaretz on Wednesday that her client wouldn’t agree to anything short of canceling the indictment.
“Daphni Leef should be completely cleared, either by our proving her innocence in court or by their retracting the indictment,” the attorney said. “We won’t accept anything less than that, not even a stay of proceedings. And the same goes for all the rest of those indicted over the social protests. Anything else would only show the law enforcement agencies’ ongoing weakness in everything to do with protecting freedom of expression and demonstration.
“There’s a consensus that it was a serious mistake to file indictments against Daphni and the other activists; apparently the only one who doesn’t understand this is the Israel Police,” Lasky continued. “The attorney general would be wise to decide to take cases involving freedom of expression and protest away from the police prosecution.”
Altogether, police prosecutors have filed more than 40 indictments against social justice protesters, but many of these cases were closed following criticism by the courts. In other cases, prosecutors reached plea bargains under which they retracted some charges, while the protesters agreed to do community service without being convicted of the others.
Thus, for instance, of the 14 people indicted after a stormy demonstration in Tel Aviv on June 23, 2013, in which bank windows were smashed, only three cases are still being heard in court. Two of the defendants are charged with assaulting a policeman and one with insulting a policeman.