Israel Police Search Homes of Two Men Over Involvement in anti-Netanyahu Protests

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Protesters use a device built by Oded Alish during a protest outside Defense Minister Benny Gantz in Rosh HaAyin, central Israel, December 20, 2020.
Protesters use a device built by Oded Alish during a protest outside Defense Minister Benny Gantz in Rosh HaAyin, central Israel, December 20, 2020.Credit: Ofer Vaknin

A 78-year-old man said the police searched his home Wednesday and called him in for questioning because he makes plastic devices used by protesters at the weekly demonstrations against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

70-year-old Rami Matan was also arrested by police, who carried out a search warrant on his home in the Nataf community. He is currently being detained in a Jerusalem police station.

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Oded Alish, a mechanical engineer from the Haifa suburb of Kiryat Tivon, built a cylinder-like device with locks and chains through which protesters can form a human chain by holding hands, thus making it harder for police to separate them during the anti-Netanyahu protests.

A few months ago, Alish took part in a demonstration across from the Knesset in Jerusalem during which protesters chained themselves to a street light pole and to each other. Alish said that the police cut the chains and dispersed the protesters, which was when he realized that “the chain was their weak spot.”

Oded Alish with his invention in his home of Kiryat Tivon.

Alish then began making the cylinder-like device, and was later asked by the protests' organizers to provide them with his creation.

On Wednesday night, “at 10:30 P.M., four cops knocked on my door in Kiryat Tivon,” Alish said. “They showed me a signed search warrant and began searching the house, in the rooms, under the beds. They didn’t find anything, but they realized what I was doing. The police confiscated my cellphone and a desktop computer.”

Although he lives in Israel’s northern region, Alish was summoned for questioning at the Moriah police station in Jerusalem. He was questioned for three and a half hours.

Oded Alish's lock-on device.

Alish’s lawyer, Gonen Ben Yitzhak, told Haaretz: “The police are treating this as if they found a [radioactive] bomb in his yard. He hasn't committed any crime, and they are treating him as if he was ‘the Engineer’ Yahya Ayyash,” referring to slain Hamas' chief bombmaker.

Gonen said that to justify involving its central unit, the police is treating Alish as if he were part of a crime organization. "There's nothing here," he added.

Rami Matan Police arrived to the house of Matan in the Nataf community, close to Jerusalem, equipped with a search warrant. According to his son Moran, they requested to search for means of disorderly conduct during the protests.

“They didn’t behave rudely or violently. My father argued with them at the end when they took some supplies connected to the protests. They didn’t take his computer, but they took his phone,” Rami's son, Moran, told Haaretz.

Matan's lawyer, who tried to visit Matan the police station, was allegedly barred from seeing his client. 

In a statement, the Jerusalem Police force said the search on Matan's home was carried out with permission and a legal warrant. 

“The seach and detention of the suspect was carried out in accordance with the court order,  as well as the other actions performed and will be performed, were intended for one and only purpose - to investigate the truth,” the statement read.

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