Gag Order on 'Price Tag' Suspect Slammed as Political

Father of suspect tells journalists in court, 'Do you know who I am?', threatens to arrest them, says identification could harm him.

A Jerusalem court has slapped a gag order on any details that could identify a man suspected of vandalizing Peace Now offices and committing other vandalism directed at Arabs and leftists, although the suspect is not a minor and the investigation into the case has been completed.

The gag order, which came on Monday, also applies to details about the suspect's parents; it was granted at the request of the suspect's father, who earlier lost control in court and threatened journalists who came to cover the hearing.

price tag - Michal Fattal - November 17 2011
Michal Fattal

"Do you know who I am?" he shouted at a journalist outside the courtroom. "I will take you into custody this very day."

Before the hearing began the suspect's father verbally attacked a press photographer after she photographed him and his wife in the courtroom. He threatened to have her interrogated and spend the night in jail. He also demanded she destroy his photograph immediately, as identification could harm him, he said.

The suspect was arrested last Tuesday for allegedly spraying "death to Arabs" and "price tag" at the Beit Hanina railway station, on the walls of the Scouts youth movement in Mevasseret Zion and at Peace Now offices in Jerusalem. "Price tag" is a code word used by settlers in actions against Palestinians as retribution.

The suspect also threatened he had planted a bomb in the Peace Now building and reportedly threatened the life of Peace Now director Yariv Oppenheimer in a phone call. Although he was caught shortly after Oppenheimer filed a complaint, and despite his admitting the acts, the suspect was released shortly afterward.

He was arrested again last week and his detention was remanded by six days. On Monday he was remanded unto custody for four more days and police said he would face charges.

In another unusual development, the suspect's father was allowed to address the court on Monday. He said his son acted out of emotional distress rather than ideology. "He's not a criminal," the father said, asking for his son to be held in a religious boarding house in Petah Tikva rather than in jail.

The court turned down the request.

"The offenses motivated by ideology have been increasing lately," said Magistrate Chen Avital. "At this time of inflamed emotions...I cannot predict how far things will deteriorate."