A Tel Aviv court on Tuesday forcefully rejected evidence submitted by the police in the trial of an activist who was charged with disorderly conduct during the 2011 social justice protests.
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“The plaintiff’s determination to submit evidence for which no basis has been proven for its admissibility … consciously goes against the basic principles upon which the rule of law is based, and endangers it,” wrote Judge Daniella Sherizli of the Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court.
The defendant, Moshe Menkin, took part in a demonstration in front of Tel Aviv City Hall on September 7, 2011, at the height of the social just protests. The indictment submitted by the police says he participated in a prohibited assembly with the aim of disturbing the peace, distributed eggs to the crowd and threw eggs at City Hall.
Menkin, represented by attorney Barak Cohen, admitted attending the protest but denied the charge. Police prosecutor Na’ama Fanan asked to submit to the court CDs containing video footage she said was shot before and during the protest, which allegedly document Menkin’s criminal acts. One CD contained footage taken by a Tel Aviv City Hall security camera and the other CD contained footage that was published on the Walla! and Ynet news websites.
The police sought to use the testimony of Detective Dudi Rahamim and investigator Moshe Hadad to establish the admissibility of the CD with the footage from the security camera. Rahamim testified that during the protest, he went to the security room in City Hall, watched the film and asked Avigdor Baranes from the computer department to copy it for him onto a thumb drive, which he later gave to Hadad. Rahamim said he didn’t know if the footage was continuous. Hadad watched the footage from the news websites and the security camera and said they show Menkin handing out and throwing eggs.
Cohen, Menkin’s lawyer, objected to the submission of the CDs, arguing they were not first-hand evidence but copies that had been copied repeatedly in accordance with police needs. He also argued that the police had not proven the CDs were authentic, faithful to the original or properly copied.
Judge Sherizli ruled that the police “did not meet a single necessary condition” and that there was no evidence the copies “were made faithfully, in full, without editing or modification.” She said not a single prosecution witness could testify to the technical conditions under which the video on the first CD was shot or to the fact that was in fact taken by the municipality security camera at the time of the incident. Sherizli watched the footage on the CDs but cast doubt on its reliability.
“Looking back, I suppose, and this is just supposition, that this problem arose from the haste that characterized the plaintiff’s action,” she said. “The plaintiff rushed to file a charge against the defendant on September 8, 2011, the day after the protest, when the defendant was in detention. In its great haste, the evidentiary aspect, which is paramount, was apparently neglected.”
The police also submitted a statement taken from the defendant late in the evening following the protest. Sherizli noted that Menkin repeatedly asked to consult with a lawyer, as was his right, but was questioned by the interrogator anyway.
Haaretz reported on Friday morning that Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein ordered a halt to the criminal proceedings against protest leader Daphni Leef. On Wednesday, Weinstein ordered a hold on cases filed against protesters with no criminal background and involving a low threshold of violence — including Leef’s case. Thirty such indictments will be reexamined, much to the dismay of the police. The cases could be permanently closed within a year.