A 41-year-old man from Tel Aviv was beaten by the police after being arrested during Saturday night’s protest outside the prime minister’s official residence in Jerusalem, witnesses said.
Police say the man, Refael Solomon, had acted violently after being loaded onto a bus used to hold detain protesters, but four witnesses said he was beaten without cause.
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A court ordered that Solomon be released from detention Sunday, but the police appealed the decision to the Jerusalem District Court and he was released Monday with limitations. During his hearing on Sunday, Solomon’s wife said he had a mental health disability and lives off of a National Insurance Institute allowance.
Police say that Solomon was arrested for attacking a police officer and disorderly conduct. Police said he was drunk, participated in blocking the entrance to Paris Square and acted violently toward officers. After he was arrested, he was loaded on a bus where police hold people set to be taken to the Moriah police station in Jerusalem. At the station, police said he cursed, tried to head-butt a police officer and vomited in the direction of the officers. Later on, police claimed he “slammed a commander in the head,” leaving him with bruises.
Several detained protesters who were on the bus said that police officers punched Solomon after he had an anxiety attack. “When I got on the bus, I heard someone crying, calling for help and shaking,” said Emuna Goldman, who had also been arrested. “He was undeniably in the middle of a severe anxiety attack. He said, ‘I can’t breathe, please help me, I don’t want to die.’ They yelled at him to ‘sit quietly,’” she recounted.
Goldman said that she asked the police to help Solomon, “they told me not to interfere and then an officer, whose name I couldn’t see, got annoyed with all the noise and the crying and, right in front of my face, hit him with his fists, punched him in the back, with a look of rage and hatred in his eyes. I yelled at him and then he just pushed me, got off the bus and disappeared,” she said.
“Refael told them: ‘I’m about to throw up, I’m nauseous,’ and he simply threw up on himself. The police who were left said he was dirtying the bus. I heard them saying that he vomited on them on purpose, that’s just ridiculous,” said Goldman.
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Shira Cohen, who was also arrested at the same demonstration, told a similar story: “Immediately after they put us on the bus, he started having an anxiety attack and showed signs of distress, had a hard time breathing. They forced him onto the bus even though it was clear that he wasn’t in control.”
Cohen said that Solomon “asked for help and shouted out of anxiety, and then I saw a policeman pounced forward and began punching him. Refael didn’t threaten anyone. The force used was not proportional. It was clear that he was in serious distress. Another detainee tried to explain that he was having an anxiety attack, they just shoved her,” said Cohen. As for the claim that Solomon threw up on the officers on purpose, she said: “As far as I know, he didn’t throw up on them and certainly not on purpose. It was clear that he hadn’t come to attack policemen.”
Itamar Alroey, who witnessed the arrest, said: “They put Refael [on the bus] and he really screamed and cried, it sounded like something really extreme. I thought he was faking, but it quickly became clear that his mental and emotional state wasn’t normal. They managed to sit him down but he kept shouting and crying, and after a few minutes two riot police officers beat him while he was sitting or lying down in the seat, punching him for a few seconds. He vomited and then was quiet.”
The policemen “hit him for no reason, and in any case, I don’t think hitting him is a proportional response. He didn’t try to escape, it didn’t make sense,” said Alroey. Another person arrested said similar things.
Solomon’s lawyer, Lea Tsemel, said he was not allowed to consult with her before he was questioned, even though she advised the rest of those arrested that night.
After being released on Monday, Solomon told Haaretz: “I don’t want to obstruct the investigation, but I’m in pain and have bruises all over my body. I feel awful, I’m still traumatized from the incident and everything that happened to me. It gives me a lot of strength to know that there were other people on the bus who saw what happened. I have no idea what came over me during those moments. I feel like, in contrast to the police, at least the legal system did me justice when it freed me to house arrest.”
Solomon says the police investigators forced him to open his phone with a fingerprint, but he refused. Solomon said that his phone is still with the police, despite the fact that they did not present a warrant for its confiscation.”
The Israel Police said: “It is regrettable that instead of condemning the serious violence against police officers, there are those who are trying to justify and legitimize it and portray a criminal suspect as a victim. The suspect was arrested after he interfered with police officers who were leading detainees to the bus and even attacked a policeman. After being put on the bus, he continued his violent behavior toward the police officers. When the bus arrived at the police station, when the police officer asked to take him off the bus, he slammed the officer’s head and left bruises on his head. During his questioning, it turned out that he had drank a large amount of alcohol,” said the police.