Israeli Court Denies Request to Extend Detention of Repeat Offender Arrested at Protest

The suspect, a resident of Modi’in Ilit who was violating a house arrest order from a prior case, was detained when police tried to break up a crowd of worshipers who had gathered in violation of COVID-19 restrictions

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The police station in Modi'in Ilit.
The police station in Modi'in Ilit, in a 2019 photo.Credit: Gil Cohen-Magen

The Petah Tikva Magistrate’s Court has rejected a police request to extend the detention of a protester until the end of legal proceedings who was indicted for lying down in front of a patrol car and resisting arrest last month.

The demonstrator, Aharon Lubetzky of the West Bank settlement of Modi’in Ilit, is also charged with violating house arrest restrictions stemming from a previous incident.

Lubetzky had “taken the law into his own hands” at the protest and “had shown contempt for the authorities and the court,” the police claimed in their request. That and his criminal record constituted grounds for keeping him in detention until the end of his trial, they said.

After the court rejected the request, Lubetzky, who had already been in jail for a week, was released to house arrest under the supervision of his parents. 

According to the indictment, last month, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, Lubetzky blocked the path of police in a patrol car who were on their way to break up a gathering in Modi’in Ilit at a synagogue that was being held in violation of COVID-19 restrictions.

Some of the worshippers allegedly attacked the patrol car and pounded on it while others threw stones and bags of excrement at the car. 

Detention for the entirety of a court case is generally reserved for suspects who constitute a public menace or who are thought to pose a risk that they will not show up in court for their trial.

In her request for Lubetzky to remain in detention, the police prosecutor alleged that the charges against Lubetzky “indicate that the man before us takes the law into his own hands, even at the price of harming his own health and the health of those around him, apparently as well as the public at large in the future.” 

Lubetzky’s lawyer, Barak Cohen, claimed on Thursday that the police prosecutor made the request because his client is ultra-Orthodox. 

The indictment alleges that Lubetzky was repeatedly asked to get out of the street, was warned that he would be arrested and after refusing was forcibly arrested. He is also accused of attempting to flee the police cruiser. 

He claimed, however, that he thought the police had opened a patrol car door to let him leave after seeing several of his friends released from a nearby police cruiser. The officer who released the other demonstrators wrote that he did so “to lower the flames.”
In an earlier case in April, Lubetzky was arrested on suspicion of organizing prayer services on three occasions in violation of emergency regulations health regulation at a time when he was already subject to house arrest.

In 2016, he was convicted of rioting and interference with a police officer in the line of duty and sentenced to five months in prison. In 2018, he was again convicted of interfering with a police officer.

At a hearing last month on the most recent charges, his lawyer told the court that there are segments of society that take to the streets to demonstrate in violation of coronavirus restrictions “and no one seeks to have them detained until the end of proceedings, even if they are suspected of attacking the police.” Lubetzky is accused of “being a wise guy and praying again,” the lawyer told the court, but that should not be grounds for completely depriving someone of his liberty. 

For her part, a police spokeswoman noted that, at the time of last month’s incident, no one had requested a permit to stage a protest.

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