Israeli Whistleblower Awarded $56,000 Judgment Over False Arrest

Rafi Rotem, who had previously exposed major corruption at the Israel Tax Authority, was called in for police questioning after sending faxes alleging additional corruption

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Rafi Rotem
Rafi Rotem in a 2014 photo.Credit: Moti Milrod

Whistleblower Rafi Rotem was awarded 192,000 shekels ($55,800) in damages by the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court on Monday in compensation for his false arrest in 2010.

Rotem had been summoned for questioning by the police over faxes that he sent to Cmdr. David Osmo, who had investigated Rotem’s complaints about corruption at the Israel Tax Authority. The police claimed that the faxes constituted harassment.

At the police station, Supt. Kobi Gatenyu demanded that Rotem promise not to contact anyone at the police in any manner in the future. When he refused, claiming that the demand was disproportionate, Gatenyu ordered him arrested.

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Before his arrest, he was subjected to a body search, during which police caused injuries that required medical treatment. The police said Rotem had resisted the search by attacking and cursing the policemen who conducted it, but they refrained from opening a case against him over the alleged misconduct.

Rotem filed a complaint over the incident with the Justice Ministry’s police misconduct unit, but did not receive a response. He later discovered that the unit had closed the case without informing him, and then approached the ombudsman who handles complaints against the prosecutor’s office, who deemed his complaint justified.

Rotem, who had been a Tax Authority investigator and had earlier exposed major corruption where he worked, then sued the police. He claimed that the decision to summon him for questioning violated police regulations, in part because no one had filed a complaint against him. He also claimed that his arrest and subsequent treatment by the police were unjustified.

The police took the position that the entire incident was the result of Rotem’s refusal to accept their conditions for his release and said that if he had not refused, he would not have been arrested or searched. But the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court rejected the argument.

Magistrate’s Judge Mario Klein awarded Rotem 240,000 shekels in compensation but reduced the judgment by 20 percent to 192,000 based on what he deemed Rotem’s contributory conduct in the incident. In his ruling, Klein slammed the conduct of the police, ruling in part that they had used unreasonable force in searching Rotem.

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