Israeli police repeatedly raided and searched last week a Jerusalem apartment occupied by left-wing activists on the grounds that one of the tenants is suspected of spray-painting graffiti in support of the Palestinian cause.
The first raid, last Wednesday night, was made after the detectives received a report from citizens, who claimed to see one of the tenants, Haley Firkser, spraying protest signs in downtown Jerusalem in support of Palestinians from the South Hebron Hills.
'Biggest change since COVID started': What's Omicron and how to beat it. LISTEN
“They scared us, banged on the windows, and when we opened the door they asked for IDs,” said Firkser. According to her, the police “photographed us with their phones and asked us questions.”
Another tenant in the apartment, Oriel Eisner, who was asleep at the time of the raid, added: “I heard people pushing at the door and saw flashlights. They said to wake everyone up, took us outside and took pictures of us with phones.”
Last Tuesday, another raid was carried out by six detectives in civilian clothing, armed with a warrant signed by a magistrate's court judge, Elad Lang, stating the search is necessary due to “suspected property damage/defacement.” The warrant also gave the police permission to search the computers in the apartment. The tenants said that the detectives overturned cabinets and drawers, searched under the beds, and asked questions about signs found in the apartment.
At the end of the Tuesday search, the detectives left a summons for questioning for Firkser, who was not in the apartment at the time. The tenants say that the policemen threatened her roommates that if she didn’t come in for questioning soon, they would come for another nighttime raid in the apartment. Firkser, who speaks English, reported to the police station on Monday night and again on Tuesday at noon, but was told both times that there is no English-speaking officer to question her. She was asked to return on Thursday.
“It’s very scary to be at home. We feel targeted by the police,” says Firkser. Eisner adds that “Their conduct is out of line with the suspicions. They behave like we killed someone. They just tried to frighten me. It’s unbelievable that the police expends so much energy to intimidate citizens. By the way, the penalty for graffiti is a fine.”
- Israel's Shin Bet arrests two suspected of planning attacks on Arabs
- Key witness in Netanyahu trial: Interrogators used ‘draconian’ methods against me
- 1,200 cops took part in anti-crime operation in the Negev, only 12 arrests were made
Riham Nassra, Firkser's attorney, said that the detectives' behavior is unreasonable. "This is an offense that barely justifies detainment, and it certainly doesn’t justify entering a home in the middle of the night and illegally photographing and questioning them. Nothing of what the policemen did is proportional to the suspicions.”
Two weeks ago, the Mynet website published that three left-wing activists from Jerusalem were detained, questioned, and given a restraining order barring them from Jerusalem after having hung signs downtown in Arabic. A police officer replied to the detainees’ attorney that suspicions against them are strengthened as they “hung signs at a late night hour, in a manner naturally covert in Jerusalem, with the signage in the Arabic language and in light of the area’s volatility, the time of day, the period and their suspicious behavior.”
In response, the police said that “during an investigation opened over the weekend on suspicion of a crime, the police arrived at the house where the suspects live and searched it pursuant to a legal warrant.” The police stressed that “there is no connection between the political affiliation or opinions of the suspects and the enforcement actions taken in regard to this case."