An Israeli policeman was charged on Sunday with fracturing the leg in May of last year of a prominent Israeli Arab activist whom he had detained at a demonstration in the northern city of Haifa.
In addition to being charged with causing serious bodily harm in breaking Jafar Farah’s leg, the policeman, Lior Hatam, is accused of assaulting seven other men who had been brought to the Haifa police station that day.
Hatam denies the accusations and maintains he's done nothing wrong, a statement provided by his lawyers Sunday said.
Farah, the director of the Mossawa Advocacy Center for Arab Citizens in Israel, was arrested along with 20 other people at the end of a protest against Israel’s policies in Gaza. According to the indictment, which was prepared by the Justice Ministry’s department on police misconduct, Hatam kicked Farah forcefully in the left leg and then lifted him up, handcuffed him and knocked him over, fracturing his leg.
The policeman is accused of then taking Farah to the restroom and of ordering him to strip for a search, although there was no need for such a search and no legal basis for it. Farah refused to undress, and Hatam then handed him over to another policeman.
According to the indictment, Farah only received medical treatment the following day, despite repeated requests for medical care. He was only referred for medical treatment when it became clear that he could not walk and needed two policemen to support him.
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Hatam allegedly cursed and threatened the detainees, and after some of them told him that they had been assaulted during the protest, he is said to have replied: “Today we’re going to have our way with you. I’ll screw you.” Hatam is also said to have called the protesters terrorists who should go to Gaza.
In response to the filing of the charges, Farah said: “The culture of lies and violence among the police has been laid bare today with details presented in the indictment. Regrettably it took a year to decide to issue the indictment. This is a policeman whose transgressions were committed under the auspices of his commanders. The commander of the Haifa [police] station, Amir Goldstein, personally, and the commanders under him, misled the police commissioner and cast doubt over my account while I was suffering from a fractured knee.”
The police commissioner at the time, Roni Alsheich, had suggested that Farah might have been injured during the demonstration and not in police detention.
Farah also claimed that Goldstein ordered him moved from a hospital to the Kishon detention facility to conceal the fact that his leg had been broken, and also asked that his time in custody be extended by five days. “Twenty-one detainees were assaulted at the Haifa police station on [that] Friday evening. I know that his commanders knew about this actions,” Farah claimed, referring to Hatam.
“I call upon them to take responsibility and resign. If he did what he did without their knowledge, it is serious, and if they knew and remained silent, that’s even more serious.”
Hatam was suspended after the incident and questioned under caution, meaning as a criminal suspect rather than simply a witness. He was also relieved of his weapon.
In the past, Hatam posted material on Facebook that was hostile to Arabs, including Palestinians. In 2014, he also expressed approval on his Facebook page for responses advocating causing harm to protesters in Haifa.
The Israel Police said Sunday it is still looking into the possible terminations of Hatam's service, adding his actions "are not in line with Israel Police's values."