Judges Slam Poor Jail Conditions at Jerusalem Police Station

Public defender officials say police stations all over the country hold inmates overnight but that Moriah lacks basic conditions, violating inmates’ rights.

The Moriah police station in Jerusalem.
Chen Galili

Judges have repeatedly criticized a Jerusalem police station for its poor conditions in recent weeks, which included detainees being kept in handcuffs overnight without access to a bed or bathroom.

Israel Prison Service regulations mean that inmates are not accepted late at night, so some prisoners are kept in police station jails instead.

In the most recent examples, K., 40, was arrested last Wednesday, after demonstrating near the prime minister’s residence in Jerusalem. She was suspected of harassing security guards. The police requested extending her remand by four days, but instead of transferring her to the jail facility in Jerusalem’s Russian Compound, she was kept overnight at the Moriah station.

K. sat handcuffed on a chair all night without the possibility of using a bathroom.

“It’s upsetting enough with that station,” said K. at her remand hearing, speaking through public defender Dotan Daniali. “I want the court to imagine how hard it is to be on a chair all night. Where are we living?”

Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court Judge Keren Miller ordered K.’s release and accepted the request for her arrest conditions. “After a number of instances were brought before me with the same problem of keeping detainees in the police station overnight in improper conditions ... I will ask the prison commander to comment on this rule,” she wrote.

A 17-year-old youth was arrested last Sunday after demonstrating in front of the President’s Residence after a Beitar Jerusalem game. He was demanding the release of Hebron shooter Sgt. Elor Azaria, and is suspected of participating in disturbances and interrupting traffic. He was also forced to spend the night at Moriah.

He lay on the freezing floor for most of the night alongside adult inmates, in violation of the law forbidding the jailing of minors and adults in the same space. Judge Miller again criticized the station’s conditions.

“The court has warned more than once about the difficulty of holding detainees in the station overnight when there are no proper conditions to do so,” she wrote, in a decision made public following a request by the public defender.

Almost three weeks ago, Judge Naeel Mohana joined the chorus of criticism against the police station after M. was arrested at 10:30 P.M. on suspicion of threatening his wife. He was handcuffed until the following morning. The judge asked the state to address incarceration conditions to weigh awarding damages.

Public defender officials say police stations all over the country hold inmates overnight but that Moriah lacks basic conditions, violating inmates’ rights.

The Israel Police said it is studying “any relevant criticism by judges that is heard, in order to learn lessons.

“Still,” it added, “the Israel Police acts in accordance with existing limitations and the law to properly guard inmates and also to let them stay in reasonable conditions during their custody. Israel Police will continue to diligently guard detainees in reasonable conditions and to protect their rights, starting from the moment of their arrest until the end of their custody.”