The Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court ordered the release of a 24-year-old West Bank Palestinian who was arrested last week because of anti-Israel remarks on Facebook.
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The police arrested Ashraf Salman, from the village of Akraba, on suspicion of illegal residence in Israel and incitement to racism. According to the minutes of the proceedings, Salman wrote “death to the Jews” on Facebook, with the picture of a scorched Israeli army tank.
Judge Itai Hermelin wrote in his decision that Salman should be released because his arrest for illegal residence seemingly stemmed from his Facebook comment, which was reported to the police. He was arrested at a wedding hall in the Bnei Brak area, although he told police he worked there.
His defense attorney argued, “There’s a difference between speaking as he did and claiming that this is a criminal offense. The remarks were made in the context of freedom of expression. I assume that during this difficult period, both Jews and Arabs are speaking in a manner that does not express their normal personality – but he is under arrest while the others are walking around free. Politicians and ministers are also speaking in harsh terms these days.”
Hermelin accepted the attorney’s argument and ordered that Salman be released on bail. “As the defense attorney said, this is a period of security and social tension that is inflaming passions and causing people to express themselves at times belligerently,” wrote the judge.
“Still, in a democratic country that sanctifies freedom of expression, we cannot arrest people for their words alone, as long as there is no advocacy to commit a crime or an outright call to harm another person,” Hermelin pointed out.