A year and a half after fiery demonstrations led by Ethiopian Israelis in the wake of the killing of Solomon Teka by an off-duty police officer, a young Ethiopian Israeli man has been indicted for threatening and insulting public servants.
According to the indictment, Sisat Fanti cursed three Ethiopian Israeli police officers during a live broadcast on social media, during a protest that took place near the prime minister’s official residence in Jerusalem.
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One of the officers sued Fanti and another activist for libel in civil court last year, seeking 75,000 shekels ($22,722) in damages for remarks allegedly made by them during the protest.
According to the indictment filed by prosecutors in the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court this month, Fanti turned to one of the police officers during the protest and said “Murderer, disgusting,” and later turned to other officers and said “Everyone in the street will know your name,” and “stinking traitor.”
The prosecution claims that Fanti pointed to other police officers and said: “They have the gaze of murderers. Even in the Holocaust there were Jews who abandoned Jews and because of that many Jews died.”
The indictment also alleges that Fanti turned to another Ethiopian Israeli officer named Kassa and said: “I’ll zoom in because I want you to see the Ethiopian officer, he was also in Sderot a few weeks ago, with my own eyes I saw him beating Ethiopian children. His name is Kassa … Look how he learned to be a toy of the murderous police." Fanti then allegedly told the officer “Remember that you sold your family” and called him a “an absolute nobody.”
According to the indictment, Fanti threatened to “damage the good name” of the officers when he said “I’ll be responsible for making a giant poster, for every event you go to – you’ll be ashamed to go in, your pictures will be on display in every Ethiopian home.”
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According to the activity log of one of the officers, reference therein, Fanti held his mobile phone in his hand and told the officer: “I wish they would murder your brother and you’d feel the pain, and don’t worry, your children will be murdered and no white man will help you.”
Last year, before the indictment was filed, one of the officers filed a defamation suit against Fanti and another activist for remarks allegedly made by them at the protest. The suit was filed by attorney Yoni Jorno, who, as first reported in Haaretz, frequently represents police officers.
According to Jorno, a Facebook post saying that people “are looking for him” caused the officer’s relatives to fear for his safety. The lawsuit claims that police even determined that the officer should be protected, but this ultimately did not happen. Another defamation suit has been brought against Fanti by a police officer from the Netanya police station.
In response to the indictment Fanti told Haaretz: “I never said anything against a police officer if it was not connected to my protest. The indictment was filed to thwart my protest activities, which in my opinion, reveals the violence and racism of the police, and therefore the police and the prosecution want to silence me. At first it was by way of false arrests and later by defamation suits.
Fanti said he recently filed a small civil suit against the police as a result of what he called his false arrest, and believes the indictment is a direct response to that.
"This indictment was filed immediately after I filed a suit against them and I think that’s not by accident,” he said.
The State Prosecutor's Office said in response that Fanti is charged with making threats and insulting a public servant. "According to the indictment, the defendant shouted harsh and serious insults at the police officers while documenting it on camera and broadcasting it through his Facebook page," said the response.
"The defendant also threatened Ethiopian Israeli police officers on duty at the scene, that he would embarrass them in their communities by disseminating photos [of them] and that photos of them would appear in every Ethiopian house, on which the defendant would write in large letters ‘The traitors of the community. The defendant even turned to one of the officers and threatened him by saying ‘Remember that you sold your family ... absolute nobody … I heard someone murdered your brother.’”