Israeli Court Annuls Conviction of Cop Filmed in Unprovoked Attack of Protester

The parole service said policeman failed to see the problem with his actions, but judge ruled in his favor, partly in order not to damage his future in the force

Police use water cannons to disperse ultra-Orthodox protesters in Jerusalem, July 2, 2019.
Olivier Fitoussi

An Israeli court annulled last week the conviction of a police officer who was filmed attacking a young ultra-Orthodox man during a demonstration in Jerusalem in 2017, partly in order not to damage his future in the police.

Instead, the policeman, Daniel Katav, was sentenced to 120 days of public service and ordered to pay 1,500 shekels ($430) in compensation to the demonstrator.

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Katav was originally convicted for assault in October 2018, after being filmed, as part of the police docudrama series “Jerusalem District,” strongly pushing a young man standing near him.

The ultra-Orthodox man assaulted by Katav is seen standing with his hands in his pockets and his back turned to him.

Katav's case was featured in the TV series, showing his commander, Yossi Tzarfati, supporting him through the trial and acting as a character witness for him. Tzarfati said Katav is not always aware of his own strength, which "sometimes works against him."

Video of the 2017 incident.

The parole service told the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court that Katav found it difficult to see the problem with his actions, but still recommended canceling the conviction.

Judge Sharon Lary-Bavly ruled in Katav's favor based on the recommendations of the parole service, which is tasked with examining whether a conviction may be avoided based on the circumstances of the defendant’s life and future.

In her ruling, Lary-Bavly rejected the position of the Justice Ministry’s department for the investigation of police officers, which asked to convict Katav. She said such a conviction could lead to his dismissal from the Israeli police.

“The harm caused to the complainant is not serious and I think that most of the harm is damage to the complainant's dignity, who was aggressively knocked down onto the street,” she wrote in her ruling. Considering the type of crime and the circumstances, the sentence is adequate to annul the conviction, added the judge.

In the case of the “non-conviction” process, the court is authorized to determine that the defendant committed the crime he's accused of, but it's unsuitable to convict him.

The Supreme Court has ruled that avoiding a conviction can be done in “exceptional” cases, mostly when the conviction of the defendant will seriously harm their future, taking into consideration the crime committed.