For First Time Since Protests Began, anti-Netanyahu Activist Charged With ‘Forbidden Gathering’

Josh Breiner
Josh Breiner
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Protesters start to march from the Chords Bridge to the PM's official residence in Jerusalem, January 9, 2021.
Protesters start to march from the Chords Bridge to the PM's official residence in Jerusalem, January 9, 2021.Credit: Emil Salman
Josh Breiner
Josh Breiner

The state prosecutor for the Jerusalem district indicted on Thursday one of the leaders of the anti-Netanyahu protests for “leading an unlawful procession.”

This is the first time since the protests began that someone has been charged with this offense, which carry a maximum penalty of one year in prison.

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According to the charge sheet, the activist, Yigal Rambam, led two processions in Jerusalem streets in recent weeks without police permission. The indictment says the defendant’s offense is forbidden gathering.

There are about 20 policemen on the prosecution’s witness list, including detectives from the Lahav 433 crime unit and from the Jerusalem police’s central unit.

The first march, described in the indictment as an “unlawful protest procession,” took place last month, and went from the Chords Bridge to Paris square, close to the prime minister’s official residence in Jerusalem. It was conducted without a permit.

Yigal Rambam during a protest in Tel Aviv, 2018.Credit: Moti Milrod

The charge sheet maintains that Rambam led the march along most of its route. “The defendant walked at the head of the procession with his face turned toward the marchers, he held a loudspeaker and called out instructions to the marchers from time to time – move on, stop – and straighten the poster they were carrying,” the indictment says.

The second march Rambam is accused of leading took a similar course Saturday evening, January 9. The indictment says that “despite earlier warnings, the defendant took part in the procession and was even among its leaders.”

It also says Rambam instructed the marchers “to stop, to move on, to straighten or to stand behind the large poster [they] carried at the head of the procession.”

A protest against Netanyahu near the Knesset, in Jerusalem, October 2020.Credit: Emil Salman

The unusual indictment was served despite the State Prosecutor’s Office’s instructions not to charge demonstrators in order to avoid a breach of freedom of expression.

The instructions said that indicting demonstrators for forbidden gathering should only be considered if the act came together with other offenses or had been carried out in grave circumstances.

Rambam said in response that “the indictment is ridiculous and groundless, it is political persecution and silencing. I and my colleagues in the Democratic Party will continue fighting in the streets and in the Knesset.”

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