Two people were charged on Sunday with a racially motivated assault against Arabs.
According to the indictment filed in the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court, the defendants – Aviyahu Cohen, 21, and a 16-year-old minor – went to a Sukkot event together with about 15 other people who haven’t been identified. At around midnight, the group decided to go hunting for Arabs in Jerusalem’s Railway Park, the indictment said. When they reached the site, they saw four Arabs from the Beit Safafa neighborhood sitting on a bench and listening to music.
The Arabs did nothing to provoke an attack, the indictment said. Nevertheless, the gang surrounded the bench and approached the four in a threatening manner, yelling “terrorist Arabs, go to Beit Safafa.” Then Cohen punched one of the Arabs in the face, and another member of the group punched another Arab in the head – “all this just because of the complainants’ [ethnic] origins,” the indictment read.
The Arabs tried to run away, but the gang chased them, while cursing and throwing stones at them. One of the Arabs fell down, whereupon the gang “fell on him while he was lying on the ground and began beating him with their fists and kicking him all over his body,” the indictment stated.
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“Among other things, some members of the group used an electric shocker, as well as bicycle helmets belonging to the complainants, which members of the gang grabbed,” the indictment added. And when the gang finally left, they took the helmets with them.
About an hour after the incident occurred, when police came to the minor’s house, he escaped via the balcony. At that point, police discovered that he had violated the terms of his bail in another pending case.
One of the four Arabs suffered significant injuries, including a broken jaw, which required him to be hospitalized and undergo an operation. The other three suffered cuts and bruises. Islam Agwa, one victim, said the suspects also ran off with four of the Arabs’ motorbike helmets when they fled the scene.
For now, both defendants are still under arrest, but a decision on whether to release them on bail will be made later this week.
The decision to include a racial animus motive in the charges of assault and aggravated injury was approved by the state prosecution’s special assignments department, which deals with hate crimes.