Judge: Israel Police Revoked Man's Driving License Because of His Political Beliefs

'Conduct of the police has no place in a democratic government'

Yotam Berger
Yotam Berger
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Guy Hirshfeld.
Guy Hirshfeld.Credit: Emil Salman
Yotam Berger
Yotam Berger

In an unusual ruling, the Nazareth Traffic Court harshly criticized the Judea and Samaria Police, maintaining that it had revoked the license of a left-wing activist illegally, only because of his political views. Judge Bassam Kandaleft ruled that the reason for revoking the license was “apparently in order to scare him and deter him from continuing in his ways in future,” and ordered the decisions overturned. The conduct of the police “has no place in a proper, democratic government,” he said.

On November 19 police from the Judea and Samaria District detained Guy Hirshfeld, a member of the left-wing organization Taayush, while he was driving in the northern Jordan Valley. They demanded to examine him on suspicion that he was driving under the influence of drugs. Hirshfeld told them that he had marijuana in his car, but explained that he was authorized to use medical cannabis. In the end the police searched the car and found the drug, but returned it to him.

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Despite Hirschfeld’s explanation, he was charged with driving under the influence, his license was suspended for 30 days and his car was impounded. Hirshfeld has had previous run-ins with the police, over his political activity.

Hirshfeld asked the court in order to withdraw the charges. Kandaleft accepted his arguments, and criticized the police, saying the incident was based on Hirshfeld’s political affiliations.

The judge added that this assertion is based on the actions of the policeman and not on assumptions: “A summons to trial and an indictment were prepared on the spot, although the basic investigation of the plaintiff’s case had not yet been completed, and there was not yet an acceptable and legal opinion that could prove that a dangerous drug was found in the body of the plaintiff while he was driving. … So that the summons to trial, which the police rushed to write for the plaintiff, was unfounded and even defective.”

The judge said that the police conducted a search of Hirshfeld’s car although he has a permit to use the drug. He added that Hirshfeld “cooperated with the police and displayed the drug that he keeps in his car legally and gave a urine sample at the policeman’s request.”

It was decided that there is no evidentiary foundation for charging Hirshfeld, and that it is not clearly in the public interest. The judge asserted that one clear finding remains — all the steps that were taken against the plaintiff were taken because he is a human rights activists.”

According to the police, “As opposed to what was claimed, the driver was caught driving under the influence of drugs. He had in his possession a substance suspected of being a drug — an illegal act that creates a genuine risk for drivers and pedestrians, and therefore his license was revoked and his vehicle was confiscated. The indictment was filed after the accused confessed to the crime attributed to him and the enforcement was unrelated to the driver’s political views.”

The police are appealing the ruling.

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