Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein on Tuesday ordered the Israel Police to withdraw indictments against ten people, including leading activist Daphni Leef, for minor crimes they allegedly committed at a social protest in the summer of 2012.
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The Israel Police prosecutor, who issued the indictments, will also consider requests to delay proceedings from four other people arrested and indicted for their roles in the protest on Tel Aviv’s Rothschild Boulevard on June 22, 2012. Delaying proceedings would effectively end the cases. Criminal proceedings will continue against the 11 other people who were indicted. The social justice protests, which began in the summer of 2011 and have fizzled out, focused on the cost of living and deteriorating social services.
Weinstein said the order does not reflect on the police’s decision to issue the indictments — “a decision that was made after the prosecution conducted a professional examination using uniform criteria and found it to be in the public interest to conduct proceedings, with a reasonable chance of a conviction.”
The Justice Ministry similarly said in a statement, “The decision is also not intended as a statement regarding the performance of the police, who did their duty faithfully according to their obligations, on the ground in real time. The prosecution’s duty is to examine its policy and the state of the evidence anew at any time, as the attorney general instructed that they do concerning these cases.”
Leef was arrested and indicted 16 months ago for participating in riots, interfering with a police officer in the line of duty and resisting arrest by force or threats. In an arbitration proceeding, the state offered Leef the option of confessing to the charges in the indictment and performing community service in exchange for not being convicted. Leef refused, demanding a full acquittal. Several days after the evidential stage of the trial began in late January, Weinstein froze the proceedings, saying he wanted to examine the social-justice protesters’ cases.
Leef, who had yet to be officially notified of Weinstein’s decision, told Haaretz that she was relieved. “I’m still waiting to get the official telephone call from my lawyer, because they did not mention a name, but today is a happy day. I think this week — with the Holyland case and also the announcement that free expression is not something the system can trample on so easily — gives us hope that we do not have to give up our inner integrity as citizens here and surrender and give in.”
Leef’s attorney, Gaby Lasky, said, “The attorney general did a good thing when he ordered the police prosecutor to withdraw the indictment, which should never have been issued in the first place. Withdrawal of the indictment means acquittal. The police and the law-enforcement agencies need to understand that the essence of democracy is the option of using the right to free expression and demonstration even when the content of the demonstration is not to the state’s taste.”