A Tel Aviv court on Thursday extended by a day the detention of a suspect who attempted to sabotage the operations of Haaretz and intimidate its staff, saying the act was politically motivated.
41-year-old Eyal Levy, a resident of the Tel Aviv suburb of Ramat Gan, is suspected of having damaged the Haaretz building’s main electrical wiring system on Wednesday, after trespassing onto the premises in order to enter the property, and of threatening reporter Gidi Weitz.
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Levy was known to police and had psychiatric antecedents, which prompted the judge to place him under evaluation.
Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court Judge Ala Masrawa said “it appears that this was a plotted action, and there are many indications that his behavior was due to his disagreement with and criticism of the newspaper owners’ political views.”
The damage caused by Levy disrupted the running of the websites of Haaretz and sister publication TheMarker for more than three hours on Wednesday.
After the act, he also approached Weitz outside the building and assailed him verbally, pressing himself against him and shouting: “What do you want from Bibi? Where is your car?” He fled before police could get to the scene, and was arrested hours later in Jaffa, another part of the Tel Aviv metropolitan area. Weitz has not yet been summoned by police to provide his account of the incident.
“When the background for such action is political, this suggests the possibility it may be repeated,” the judge said. “Once these matters come from a place of verbal violence and then find expression physically, there are reasons to worry, which require an investigation of the degree of risk.”
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Masrawa criticized the police for not having sent Levy for a psychiatric evaluation as soon as he was detained. A police representative at the hearing said Levy had been ordered placed under psychiatric care in the past.
Levy entered the courtroom in handcuffs because he had misbehaved on his way to the court, according to the Israel Prison Service. On Wednesday, Levy had refused to answer interrogators’ questions and insisted on his right to remain silent.
Alon Ben-Ziv, the suspect’s attorney with the public defenders’ office, said after the session: “This is a man confronting psychological problems. It is regrettable that the Israel Police did not choose to send him for psychiatric evaluation although it was aware of his condition, and that they tried to question him without notifying the public defenders about his arrest in real time.”