Israel Police Disobeyed Court Order to Release Detainee

Court tells police to pay NIS 1,500 in compensation.

Shirly Seidler
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The Be'er Sheva courthouse. The photo shows a modern high-rise building clad in pale limestone.
The Be'er Sheva courthouse.Credit: Eliyahu Hershkovitz
Shirly Seidler

The Be’er Sheva Magistrate’s Court last week ordered Israel Police to compensate a man who was illegally held in detention, contrary to a court order, NIS 1,500. “A situation in which the Israel Police does not uphold a court order and continues to hold a person in detention is intolerable,” said Judge Itay Bresler-Gonen, vice-president of the Be’er Sheva Magistrate’s Court.

Last December the resident of the south was arrested for property crimes. The following day, he was supposed to be brought before a judge to have his remand extended, but the Prison Service failed to bring him to court until the remand was due to expire. Consequently, the Be’er Sheva Magistrate’s Court ordered that the detainee be released. The police requested a postponement as it intended to appeal the release decision, but the court did not grant the request. Four hours after the man was supposed to have been released, the police filed an appeal in the District Court and the detainee was brought from the Ohel Keidar detention facility in Be’er Sheva in handcuffs, contrary to the Magistrate’s Court decision.

The detainee’s public defender, Yariv Ben-David, says that at the start of the hearing on the appeal, the District Court explained to the police officers that they were in violation of a legal order and in contempt of court, and ordered the detainee released immediately. “Since, due to a mistake by the Prison Service, the detainee was not brought on time to the hearing on extending his remand, the police decided to keep him under arrest even though they received a detailed protocol from the court saying there was to be no delay in carrying out the order and that he was to be released immediately,” Ben-David told Haaretz.

Eliahu Bitan, the District Court judge in Be’er Sheva, was critical of the police’s conduct. In his ruling he wrote that “a situation in which the Israel Police does not uphold a court order and continues to keep a person in detention despite a judicial order for his release is intolerable ... The fact that the respondent was brought to the court by police officers and not escorted by the Nahshon Unit [which usually brings detainees to court for remand hearings] indicates that the police were aware that the respondent should have been released before he was brought to court.”

In wake of the incident, the detainee sued the state for damages, and last week Judge Bresler-Gonen ruled that the police must compensate him in the amount of NIS 1,500.

“It’s not a lot of money,” says attorney Ben-David. “But the ruling makes a statement that says the police cannot detain someone against the law when there is a court order.”

The police provided this response: “The Israel Police, as a law enforcement authority, respects judicial decisions. The incident in question has been examined and the necessary lessons drawn.”

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