After Arrests, Court Bars anti-Netanyahu Activists From Jerusalem Protest Site

Judge sides with police, says activists planned to hold a protest without a permit, which the High Court ruled isn't necessary to demonstrate

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Police arresting a protester at the demonstration in front of the Prime Minister's Residence in Jerusalem, Saturday.
Police arresting a protester at the demonstration in front of the Prime Minister's Residence in Jerusalem, Saturday.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg

An Israeli court on Sunday ordered three leading activists in the protests against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to stay at least a kilometer away from the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem, where the demonstrations are usually held.

Two of the three were arrested over the weekend while on their way to the Prime Minister’s Residence on suspicion of engaging in unruly behavior, attending an impermissible gathering and conduct that could disturb the peace. The third person, who was arrested at the protest itself, was asked during his interrogation if he intended to harm the prime minister.

The High Court of Justice ruled in the past that there is no need to obtain a police permit to demonstrate, but police officials from the Jerusalem District insist that based on the police’s general authority to maintain order, they have the right to place conditions on holding protests.

The three, Daniel Ohana, Niron Mizrahi and Ziv Bertfeld, are active in the regular protests across from the Prime Minister’s Residence.

Over the weekend, police stopped two buses in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Ein Karem that were taking protesters to a demonstration at the Prime Minister’s Residence. Mizrahi and Bertfeld, who were on the buses, were arrested on suspicion of engaging in unruly behavior even though they never made it to the protest. The third protester, Ohana, was arrested in the afternoon at the demonstration, which was attended by several dozen protesters.

After being questioned, the three refused to be released on the condition that they stay away from the Prime Minister’s Residence and were therefore brought to the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court for a hearing regarding their continued detention. During the hearing, it turned out that the police had asked Ohana whether he intended to harm Netanyahu. A police representative in court said the question was asked because “time after time, [Ohana] comes to the siege of Balfour,” referring to the street where the Prime Minister’s Residence is located.

Gonen Ben Itzhak, the lawyer representing the three, claimed that the arrests constituted a violation of his clients’ freedom of expression, but the judge, Adi Bartal, accepted the stance of the police. The activists intend to appeal the judge’s ruling to the district court.

“From the evidence presented to me, this doesn’t involve an innocent bus carrying hikers but rather an act that was well planned by activists coming with the aim of demonstrating in violation of police orders,” Bartal stated. “Ohana was arrested in the course of the illegal gathering across from the Prime Minister’s Residence while holding a megaphone and after he was asked to stop using the megaphone and didn’t act in accordance with the orders. The right to demonstrate doesn’t stand alone and cannot unreasonably infringe on other rights.”

Bartal also ruled that the arrest of the two protesters on the bus, Mizrahi and Bertfeld, constituted “preventative detention.” She ordered the three to stay away from the Prime Minister’s Residence in addition posting a personal bond and refraining from having contact with those involved in the investigation.

The anti-Netanyahu protest organization Crime Minister took issue with judge’s ruling, calling it “very regrettable that the magistrate’s court has backed the police” and enabled a deprivation of liberty and “such a serious violation of freedom of expression, practices that should be used under extreme circumstances involving danger and not against law-abiding demonstrators.”

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