State Ordered to Pay Palestinian Activist in Damages for False Arrest

Well-known Palestinian activist Issa Amro had been falsely arrested without warrant in the West Bank town of Hebron. The court ruled that the Israeli solider had no grounds to make the arrest

Palestinian activist Issa Amro in Hebron.
Olivier Fitoussi

The state was ordered by a Jerusalem Court Wednesday to pay several thousand shekels in compensation for false arrest to Issa Amro, a well-known Palestinian activist in the West Bank town of Hebron. He had sued the state after being detained in Hebron in 2015 while conducting a tour of the city.

Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court Registrar Samih Saber Masarwa ruled that Amro’s arrest had been unlawful and awarded him 5,500 shekels ($1,470) in damages. Amro had demanded 40,000 shekels in compensation.

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In the incident, Amro was standing with a group of people on Shuhada Street, the main street leading to the Tomb of the Patriarchs, when, at the request of Israeli soldiers, he moved to nearby stairs rather than standing in the street. The soldiers were concerned that his presence on the street, near the city’s Jewish enclave, could cause friction.

Amro was then asked to leave the area altogether, but refused. He said that he lived in the area and presented an ID card with his address.

After refusing, Amro was arrested and taken to a police station, where he waited several hours to be questioned. He was then released.

The court rejected the state’s argument that the soldiers had the authority to order Amro to leave the area “because to the best of their judgment, it would contribute to calm,” as the state put it.

In ruling in Amro’s favor, the court registrar said the soldier’s judgment is always subject to review, and although there were grounds to require Amro to move to the stairs and to wait there, there was no basis for requiring that he leave the area entirely.

The registrar also criticized the police for putting him under formal arrest, although she also questioned the necessity of detaining Amro at all. And if the aim was to separate Amro from Israelis at the scene, the opposite was achieved, the registrar said, because following his arrest, Amro was brought back to Shuhada Street by the soldiers.

In addition to awarding Amro 5,500 shekels in compensation for what she found was four hours under arrest or detention, she awarded him 1,300 shekels in expenses and 3,500 shekels in attorney’s fees.

Amro’s lawyers, Eitay Mack and Gaby Lasky, said that in effect, the court had accepted Amro’s claim that he, like other anti-occupation activists, was detained without justification in an attempt to deter him from his activities.

Lasky said that a criminal case is pending against Amro in military court for participating in demonstrations that she claimed involved similar circumstances.

“I hope that the court there also understands that the purpose of the detentions against him is to silence him,” she said.