Police in Jerusalem have found a new way to gather information about East Jerusalem residents: Wake them up in the middle of the night to “interview” them.
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According to testimonies collected by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, over the past month police forces, including masked policemen, have been entering residential neighborhoods between 2 A.M. and 4 A.M., and going door to door, waking up residents to ask them questions about family members and neighbors, their property, where their children go to school, and more.
ACRI says police have conducted dozens of such interviews, primarily in the Issawiya and A-Tur neighborhoods. In none of the known instances did the police show a warrant, nor were the residents accused of anything. On the contrary, the police often told the residents straight out that they were simply collecting information for intelligence purposes.
In a letter sent Thursday by ACRI attorney Anne Sucio to Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit, Sucio cited a report by A., a resident of the Sawana neighborhood of A-Tur. About a month ago, at 3 A.M., he said, he and his wife were woken by three Border Policemen, one of whom was masked, who sat him down for 45 minutes and asked him questions about all the other tenants in his building. He was asked to present his families' identity cards and was questioned about vehicles in his possession.
When A. asked for an explanation, he was told, according to Sucio, “We are going from house to house, starting at midnight. If we would come during the day you would throw stones.” When he asked why they were collecting these details, Sucio said, “He was told it didn’t pay to mess with the police. Because they feared their young daughters would wake up, A. and his wife provided all the details they were asked.” Afterward the police proceeded to the apartments of A.’s neighbors.
Two weeks later, at 3:40 A.M., police came to an apartment in Issawiya, where a different A. lives with his wife, four children, and 75-year-old mother. The policemen wanted everyone in the house woken up and asked for the identity cards of all the family members. When they couldn’t find his mother’s identity card, they made A. call his sister who lives nearby and had her bring it to them. After half an hour, the sister arrived with the ID card and the policemen left.
“Needless to say, this is a frightful practice that has no place in a democratic state,” wrote Sucio. “A person’s clearest and most basic rights to privacy, freedom, and dignity are all being brutally trampled upon. Knocking on someone’s door in the middle of the night when he and his children are sleeping, with a number of policemen, some of them masked, waiting at the entrance, is an extreme measure that should be reserved, at best, for the most hard-core, dangerous criminals.
“There’s no doubt that the police are encountering serious challenges in East Jerusalem,” she continued. “But this time it seems that all red lines have been crossed and there is no way to justify such illegal and immoral activity, which violates basic rights, totally undermines public confidence in the police and stains the entire police force.”
A police source said this was not to be a regular practice, but was a one-time campaign against suspects and was part of a large enforcement and arrest operation in Issawiya last month.
Despite repeated requests, the Israel Police spokesman did not respond to this report by press time.