Israel to Compensate Activist Beaten by Soldiers in West Bank

Amir Bitan was filming a nonviolent Palestinian protest when soldiers beat him with rifle butts, fired rubber bullets at him and pepper-sprayed him

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Activists at Al-Khima on the day of the incident in 2016.
Activists at Al-Khima on the day of the incident in 2016.Credit: Amir Bitan
Amira Hass
Amira Hass

The government will pay 10,000 shekels in compensation to a human rights activist beaten by soldiers while filming a nonviolent Palestinian protest against an illegal outpost.

The settlement was reached this week with a military prosecutor in an agreement that has the validity of a court ruling.

>>'The soldiers just stood there, helpless:' Left-wing activists attacked by settlers in West Bank speak out

Amir Bitan.Credit: Emil Salman

Soldiers beat the activist, Amir Bitan from Jerusalem, with rifle butts, fired rubber bullets at him and pepper-sprayed at him by the illegal outpost Al-Khima in the northern Jordan Valley. The November 2016 incident was filmed by video.

Bitan had been filming a Palestinian protest next to the outpost, which has yet to be torn down despite a demolition order.

The protest, which included the pitching of a tent at the site, caused no altercations.

Settlers filmed the Israeli and Palestinian protesters and several protesters photographed the settlers.

But after four hours of standoff, soldiers and police broke it up, saying that the protest was illegal.

Soldiers tossed stun grenades near the protesters, and one exploded near Bitan, as he was photographing the events.

Other protesters began to disperse.

But a female soldier got angry at Bitan when he sarcastically offered to help her pull the pin of a stun grenade she was having trouble with. She hit him with her rifle butt. Two other soldiers joined in, also smacking him with their rifles.

Then an officer shouted: "Give him a rubber [bullet], take him apart,” and a soldier fired a rubber-coated metal bullet that missed Bitan. The officer's voice was captured on videotape later submitted to the court as evidence.

The officer ran towards Bitan and sprayed pepper spray in his eyes at close range.

In December 2016, attorney Itay Mack filed a complaint on Bitan’s behalf with the military prosecutor. In March 2017, Mack was told that the complaint had been lost.

A month later Mack filed a suit for civil damages against the state in Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court.

In May 2017, the military investigative police finally began reviewing the circumstances of the incident and in September, or 10 months after the first complaint was filed, announced that an investigation was being launched.

Maor Sabag of the Jerusalem district attorney’s office, who represented the state in the civil proceeding asked in May to postpone the proceedings since the chief military prosecutor was due to rule on the investigation.

Two weeks ago, the case was transferred from the Jerusalem to the Tel Aviv district attorney’s office without any soldiers' depositions. Then in a settlement reached last week, the government agreed to pay Bitan damages for the incident.

Haaretz asked the Israeli army spokesman's office why investigations of the incident were only initiated after a civil lawsuit was filed and how the spokesman would respond to the claim thatת if the suit had not been filed, no investigation would have been undertaken. In addition, Haaretz asked why it took so long to investigate soldiers whose identities were known and where the investigation currently stands. In May, the court had been informed that the Military Advocate General was about to issue a decision on the matter.

The army spokesman's office issued the following response: "In March 2017ת the military prosecutor's office was provided with a copy of the damage suit filed against the Defense Ministry in connection with the assault on a Palestinian by soldiers at the end of 2016. Until it was received at that time, the Israeli army had been unaware of the complaint. Following the claim in the civil suit and after examining the incident, the decision was taken to conduct a preliminary examination. After the findings from the preliminary examination were received, it was decided to open an investigative military police investigation … which has ended and whose findings have been submitted to the military prosecutor's office, which is to make a decision in the near future."

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