A guard for the Waqf, the Muslim religious trust responsible for the Al—Aqsa compound in Jerusalem, who filed a lawsuit against Israel Police last week for alleged assault by one of its officers, was summoned for questioning on suspicion that he had initiated the attack.
The guard is suing the police for 60,000 shekels ($17,275), claiming he was struck, choked and bitten by the policeman. The police now allege that the guard instead “cursed and threatened the policeman,” an accusation that the guard’s lawyer vehemently denies.
The incident occurred in August, when the guard, Mohanad Idris, was on shift. He spotted a policeman whom he said had attacked him a few weeks before. Because he did not know the policeman’s name, he photographed him and reported him to the Israeli Justice Ministry unit that investigates police misconduct. “He saw me filming him and came towards me. The minute I lowered the camera he spat at me. I told him that I had lodged a complaint and they would deal with him.”
A few minutes later, according to Idris, the policeman returned with another officer, while Idris was on the phone with the police misconduct unit. “He told me ‘hang up and come with me.’ I went with him without any trouble, and when we got to the place where there were more police, one of them started attacking me,” he said.
During the assault, which was caught on video, the policeman choked him and later bit him on the shoulders. He then knocked him to the ground and struck him twice in the head with metal handcuffs.
Idris was taken to Mokassed Hospital in East Jerusalem, complaining of sharp pains in the head. The next day he went to his neighborhood clinic for treatment, accompanied by his 5-year-old son. There, he was detained by two riot police officers for about an hour. They were going to arrest him but did not do so because he had his son with him. Idris was instead summoned for questioning.
During the interrogation, Idris was told that he was suspected of assaulting the policeman. The police alleged his assault was caught on camera, but they refused to show him the footage. Idris was released but was called back in a few days later, this time to be served a restraining order banning him from the Temple Mount, his place of work, for three months. Despite this, he was not charged.
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In response to a query from Haaretz, the police said that Idris had “cursed and threatened” the policeman but did not say that he had assaulted him. Since the dispute broke out over access to the Gate of Mercy (Bab al-Rahma) about eight months ago, with the unilateral opening of the controversial structure for Muslim prayer by the Waqf, and a closure order issued by the Israeli authorities, Israel Police arrest, detain and issue restraining orders against Waqf guards almost every week.
Attorney Eitay Mack said: “It’s clear there was no assault here. A Palestinian suspected of assault is not released and told to come back in a few days. They would have arrested him immediately. Under these circumstances, there is not the slightest doubt that the policeman lost his temper and tried to frame an innocent citizen to defend himself.” The police were trying to whitewash the “violent and illegal actions” of the policeman in question, Mack said.
In addition to accusing Idris of cursing and threatening the policeman, the statement by the Israel Police said an investigation was underway and “naturally we will not give details of an ongoing investigation. The lawsuit has not yet been received. When it comes, we will study the details and respond in court.”