A Tel Aviv court on Thursday ordered the release of six Israelis of Ethiopian descent who had been arrested the previous evening at a demonstration in the city against police violence.
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The magistrate’s court denied a police request to extend the protesters’ remand, saying the demonstrators’ alleged offenses did not justify keeping them in custody.
The police accused one protester of taking part in a “forbidden gathering.” Judge Yaron Gat said the offense did not justify incarceration and ordered the suspect’s immediate release, after having him sign a personal guarantee for 3,000 shekels ($782) and having his fingerprints and photograph taken.
Police prosecutor Lior Solomon had asked the court to extend the man’s custody by two days. He said the suspect had taken part in an illegal demonstration by “members of the Ethiopian community.
“He was asked to clear the road, [but] went down to the road and prevented cars from moving on. He shouted ‘Violent policemen should be inside [jail].’ We wanted to release him, but he refused our demand for fingerprints and to be photographed, so he was detained,” Solomon said.
However, after reading the case report of the officer who had arrested the protester, the judge disagreed. “I did not receive the impression that this specific suspect committed acts that were very different or especially serious by comparison to the rest of the demonstrators,” said Gat.
The judge also said the only offense the suspect was charged with was taking part in a forbidden gathering, and therefore found no justification to ban him from Tel Aviv.
In the case of another demonstrator, the police prosecutor claimed that “he was on the road, ran wild and blocked the traffic.” Solomon accused the suspect with taking part in an illegal demonstration held by “members of the Ethiopian community,” as well as “participating in a riot after the police had ordered the demonstration to disperse.”
In this case, too, the judge ruled there was no reason to keep the suspect in custody. The judge criticized the conduct of the police in response to offenses that did not justify the protesters’ detention.
Attorney Michal Pomerantz, who represented the six detainees, said, “There wasn’t a significant cause for arrest in any of the cases, and no reason to keep them in custody overnight. It’s ironic that the demonstrations were against police violence, yet the police haven’t internalized this and continue to behave in the same way toward the protesters.”
She said one of the detainees, a minor, had not been accused of violence at all and had been interrogated during the night, in violation of the law. The police asked the court to extend the minor’s remand as well, but the judge ordered his release.
Pomerantz said another demonstrator was brought to the police station after the demonstration on Wednesday night bruised and feeling unwell, but he was only released the following morning.
Two other demonstrators who had been arrested were released earlier Thursday without being brought to court.