Some 20 anti-government protesters have been detained near the home of Defense Minister Benny Gantz over the past week, but all were released without any restrictions on their freedom of movement – and some were not even questioned after they were taken to the police station.
The protesters, who demonstrate in shifts against Gantz near his home in Rosh Ha’ayin, refuse to accept the police’s authority to restrict their protests in the area of his house, which is considered his official residence – similar to that of the prime minister in Jerusalem – and security there has been beefed up recently. Another protest was held there on Wednesday evening.
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The police said in an official letter to attorneys Gonen Ben Yitzhak and Gabi Lasky, who represent the protesters, that Gantz’s residence is not an official residence.
“The release of all those detained without conditions testifies that there was no reason to detain them from the start. Also, in a number of cases, even though my clients were detained in the police station, they were not even questioned,” wrote Lasky in a letter to the police asking it to retract the cases against the protesters.
At least five of those detained were not questioned at all.
A protester named Meir Moskovich said the police are now detaining people, bringing them to the police station and keeping them for two or three hours without questioning – and then release them. “22 of us were arrested, around midnight one of the policewomen told me: ‘OK. You’re released.’ The only thing they took from us was identifying information. They didn’t even ask us why we came. Noting. I decided that the days are over when they take me from a street corner and bring me to the police station without questioning me,” he said. “They want to break my spirit.”
Shula Klein, 70, said she was detained five times in the last two weeks, and questioned only twice. She said the police officers were polite and courteous, but sometimes all she did was sit and wait. She said she would sue the police for wasting her time: “It’s no joke, it’s kidnap.”
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The Crime Minister protest movement said before the demonstration: “This week too we will come to Rosh Ha’ayin and demand that Gantz investigate the submarine affair and dismantle the government of the defendant that failed with the coronavirus, shattered the economy and trampled democracy.” The movement said it was demanding that the police allow them to hold the demonstration next to Gantz’s home and if the police think they can deter them using false arrest, then “they will get us even bigger and more determined than ever.”
The police said that as part of its legal duty, it acts to enforce the law and court decisions on the matter and preserve public order. “According to its legal authority, the police acted to stop the commission of the crime, including detaining suspects who demonstrated at the scene illegally and who did not respond to warnings, with the purpose of stopping the commission of the crime.”
The police said that the decision of whether to investigate a detained suspect and when and where to question him is made by officers on the scene, according to circumstances and professional considerations – and is not related to the need to stop the commission of a crime and public disturbances. They added: “We will continue to allow the freedom of protest according the law, but we will not allow violations of the law and public order.”