Suspect in Car-ramming of anti-Netanyahu Protesters Tells Court He 'Feared for His Life'

Court extends driver's detention, urging Tel Aviv police to look into reports of 'intentional hit and run,' while detained protesters says suspect told him he was 'proud of it'

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Pini Luzon at the hearing for the extension of his detention, Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court, October 2, 2020.
Pini Luzon at the hearing for the extension of his detention, Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court, October 2, 2020.Credit: Moti Milrod
Bar Peleg
Bar Peleg

A Tel Aviv court ordered on Friday the extension of the detention a man suspected of trying to run over protesters in the city the night before. Pini Luzon allegedly hit a protester with his car, injured her and fled the scene.

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Luzon said during the hearing at the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court that he felt his life was in danger. The judge stated that “the police must examine whether there is evidence for an intentional hit and run, or negligence, or, as the suspect claims, of fleeing the scene because of a fear for his life.”

The police requested to hold Luzon for five more days for questioning, but the court ordered him to be held for only two more days.

A police representative said that if Luzon really feared he would be “lynched,” in his words, then he could have turned to one of the police officers who were surrounding the protesters.

The suspect went to a police station on his own near midnight Thursday, over an hour after the alleged hit and run, and was taken from the station for questioning. Luzon said that he went to a police coronavirus roadblock of his own initiative and reported what had happened – but the police officer there was sent off to file a complaint.

A police officer at the Tel Aviv anti-government protest, Tel Aviv, September 1, 2020.Credit: Moti Milrod

The suspect’s lawyer, Yifat Cohen, told the court: “A person who was trying to endanger human life or run over somebody would have fled the scene and not turned himself in, or gone back and told a policeman ‘They attacked me, what should I do?’” Cohen added that “It is possible to see in the film three thugs who didn’t come to demonstrate, but to carry out brutal violence with tools for assault, and smashed his car window. He fled because he felt an immediate threat to his life,” said Cohen.

Luzon told investigators: “I couldn’t continue driving because they surrounded me.”

Luzon’s car, which was damaged during the protest, was stopped at a police roadblock nearby on Thursday night, but he was let go after the police did not link him to the incident.

One protester who was arrested Thursday, Stav Shomer, said he was placed in the same cell as Luzon. Shomer said he asked to be moved to another cell because of this, and the police commander agreed. The police denied Shomer’s claims.

Luzon “started talking with the drug dealer who was with us [in the cell] and said ‘the protesters, those bastards, tried to lynch me, so I ran them over … I’m going to kill them, every one of them.’”

Niro Barak, another protester arrested Thursday, said he also met Luzon. “I met the hit and run suspect. He was proud of it and said he would give all of us kisses.”

“I was at a demonstration and at some point they began to pull people out,” Barak added. “They arrested a 51-year-old actor … The police were violent. I have bruises all over my body, they dragged me on the ground.”

The police called on eyewitnesses to the incident to file a complaint.

One of the women who was struck by the car, Dorit Zak, said on Friday morning: “They ran me over, a car hit me at full speed.”

“Among the people walking stood two cars, one of which you could see was impatient … Just as I passed him the second car simply, from a full stop, stepped on the gas and began to drive,” as Zak and others crossed the intersection, she said Friday morning in a radio interview with the Kan public broadcaster.

Zak emphasized that she was crossing an intersection when the incident occurred, and that she had not stopped, blocked the street, or otherwise provoked the driver.

The car hit her in the stomach, throwing her onto the road, while also injuring her friend who was walking alongside her, Zak said.

Government limitations on protests took effect on Thursday night. The solution for protesters to continue to demonstrate given the limitations on how far demonstrators are allowed to travel from their home seems to be to hold a large number of small protests within a short distance from one’s home all over the country. The Black Flag protest movement said it would organize demonstrations for every Thursday and Saturday, and publish a map that includes about 2,500 protest sites.

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