Police Couldn’t Justify Arrests Made During Protests Over Killing of Ethiopian Israeli Teen

Judges criticize police for detaining suspects without proper evidence, denying some legal representation and medical treatment

A demonstrator walks among policemen at the Kiryat Ata junction near Haifa, July 2, 2019.
Rami Shllush

In the wake of nationwide protets over the shooting of an 18-year-old Israeli of Ethiopian descent, 196 people were arrested, many of them without adequate evidence against them and were later denied proper legal representation and medical treatment. Several district judges have criticized the police for making such arrests, who were unable to properly justify their decisions to detain protesters.

Following the shooting of Soloman Teka by an off-duty police officer in the Kiryat Haim suburb of Haifa, thousands throughout Israel took to the streets to protest against police brutality and racism toward Jews of Ethiopian descent.

Ethiopian Israelis protesting police shooting of Solomon TekaHaaretz

>> Read more: ‘Not MLK, but Malcolm X’: Is Israel having its Black Lives Matter moment? ■ Ethiopian Israelis are furious at 'white media' coverage of protests, and for a good reason | Analysis ■ No one did anything to defuse the Ethiopian-Israeli 'time bomb' 

Those arrested are suspected of a wide variety of crimes including throwing stones and Molotov cocktails, assaulting police officers and civilians, disturbing order, damaging property, incitement and making threats. But in some of the court hearings the police had difficulty presenting evidence, if any was collected at all, against the suspects. Some of the suspects arretsesd were later released to their homes with police consent, while others were sent to alternatives detention centers and were required to stay away from the protests. The police said they would file indictments soon.

In the Kiryat Ata junction near Haifa, the police prevented a man arrested from receiving medical treatment for “logistical reasons.” The young man was arrested during protests on Tuesday evening on suspicion of trying to run over police officers with his motorcycle. The police say the suspect, who is suffering from brusies under his eye among other places, resisted arrest.

The police told the Magistrate’s Court in Krayot that they “regretted” not providing treatment and “for a logistical reason it was impossible to take him [for treatment].”

In the hearing in court on Wednesday, Leonid Prohovnik, the suspect’s lawyer from the Public Defender’s Office, said the bruise under his eye was caused by a policeman’s fist, and requires a medical examination. Prohvnik added that his defendant asked to be treated a number of times, while he was being held in the Zevulun police station. A police representative said they are aware of the matter.

Judge Shlomo Michael Erdman also criticized the police, writing: “It is not clear why the suspect was not taken for treatment.” The young man, who does not have a criminal record, is suspected of endangering lives on the street, interfering with a police officer on duty, unsafe driving and inappropriate behavior in a public place.

In Israel’s south, three protesters were arrested without proper evidence. Aviad Katz, a youth officer from the police’s Lachish district, apologized to the judge in the Ashkelon Magistrate’s Court: He would not present evidence to support the suspicions against three protesters who were arrested in the demonstrations. However Katz still asked the court to extend their detention.

Two of the arrested were suspected of unlawful assembly, while a third was suspected of violence toward police officers. Another individual was suspected of throwing an object at a car. “The case that appears before your honor is unique,” said Katz. “Some of the police officers who are supposed to write action reports were injured at night. Some were hospitalized, some are exhausted after a day of fighting. There was very serious violence against the public and I regret that not all the evidence we have now can be brought before the court.” As a result, the police would accept extending the detention of the suspects for only one day, said Katz.

Magistrate’s Court Judge Avishai Cohen refused to order their remand extended with no evidence, arguing the charges against them are incompatible with corresponding police reports. The police appealed his decision before the Be’er Sheva District Court, which ordered two of the suspects be kept in custody for another 24 hours.

Police arrest a suspect in the Krayot area outside Haifa, July 1, 2019.
Rami Shllush

The majority of detainees brought Wednesday before the Ashkelon Magistrate’s Court were Israelis of Ethiopian descent, but Judge Cohen said there was one case of an 18-year-old who was arrested for hurling stones at a police station is of “severe gravitiy” due to the fact that he is not Ethiopian Israeli. Cohen ruled that the suspect, who has a hearing impairment, had decided “to actively participate in a violent demonstration.” He was released Thursday to house arrest.

In Petah Tikva, Magistrate’s Court Judge Oded Moreno released two suspects who were denied consultations with attorneys. Moreno stated that forgoing the right for legal representation must be done consciously and explicitly, and documented in writing or in an audio or video recording, which did not happen in this case.

The judge criticized the police, saying that detention should not be used as a punitive measure, and required in the case of protesters “only if necessary for the investigation.” The police eventually backtracked on their decision to appeal his release.

A 15-year-old boy was taken to the Lod Magistrate’s Court, after being detained at a protest with an empty bottle of beer, yelling at officers: “Die, you don’t deserve to live.” When police searched him, they also found drugs in his possession.

However, the judge ruled that in this case “the charges against him do not point at a high level of danger to the public – possession of drugs, violent conduct in a public place and assaulting a public worker – yet he was brought in for his remand to be extended claiming he was dangerous.”