Police arrested a Palestinian for alleged car theft last week then showed up in court without evidence, resulting in the court releasing the man and referring the case to the Justice Ministry department that investigates police misconduct due to suspicions that police beat the man while arresting him.
Police officers, escorted by soldiers, burst into Mahmoud Ibrahim’s home in Beit Liqya, near Ramallah, before dawn last Sunday, claiming he had stolen a car near Modi’in. They had no warrant for the arrest, and Ibrahim said they beat him, causing injuries to his head and hands.
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“My wife and I were asleep in our room,” said 38-year-old Ibrahim. “Suddenly they broke down the door, which was locked. They didn’t even knock – straightaway they broke it and entered.
“Within a second, the children also woke up,” he continued. “They told them to put their hands up and lie on the floor. These are 10-year-old kids, you understand? I just wish I had cameras” to document the incident.
At the remand hearing the next day, the police asked the Rishon Letzion Magistrate’s Court to extend Ibrahim's detention alleging that Ibrahim was suspected of making threats, interfering with a police officer in the line of duty and conspiracy to commit a crime.
But the request didn’t even mention car theft, which even the police representative conceded outright.
According to the police representative, Ibrahim told the arresting officer, “You’ll pay for this. I’ll make sure to come to your house. I’ll find you.”
According to Ibrahim, the police beat him up. He said that upon arriving at the police station, he even asked them to involve the Justice Ministry department that probes police misconduct, known by its Hebrew acronym Mahash, but was told “There’s no Mahash here.”
Judge Tal Aner said at the remand hearing that police had not provided any justification for breaking into Ibrahim’s house without a warrant, let alone any explanations with respect to how the search and arrest were conducted. The police representative said that the suspicions against Ibrahim “weren’t new” and contended that officers at the Modi’in police station had told him that in this case there was no need for a warrant.
Aner added that Ibrahim’s alleged threats and interference with a police officer were also “fairly low level.” He therefore ordered that Ibrahim be released and, in light of his visible injuries, referred the case to the Justice Ministry department that investigates police misconduct.
Ibrahim has been convicted of property crimes more than once in the past and has even served jail time. The police said that soon they will file an indictment charging him with another property offense. Ibrahim believes his past convictions were the only reason motivating his latest arrest.
“This isn’t a police force, it’s a mafia,” he said. “I’ve made mistakes in my life and I’ve paid for them. This time, if I did something, if there’s evidence, let the court put me in jail. But the judge released me on the spot.”
Ibrahim's public defender Binyamin Ben Natan characterized the police’s conduct as “outrageous” and said they ought to be more scrupulous about complying with the law and judicial precedent. He added that a complaint has been filed with the Justice Ministry's police misconduct unit and that he expects there to be a “thorough, comprehensive investigation” into the alleged police misconduct and for "thorough and appropriate measures to be taken against those responsible."
Police said in a statement that the arrest was carried out lawfully and that the arrest was made for purposes of an ongoing investigation into the main suspicions against him and also due to additional crimes committed from the moment he was arrested, including interfering with a police officer and threats.
The police also claimed that Ibrahim and his wife did not complain of any damage to their property during the search itself, “and that’s because the search was conducted professionally and in accordance with regulations.” As for Ibrahim's accusation of police brutality, the statement continued, "the investigative materials were sent to the unit that investigates officers for its examination," the police said.