Senior Jerusalem Police Officer Who Attacked anti-Netanyahu Protester Gets Probation

Prosecutors asked to sentence Chief Superintendent Niso Guetta to public service – but judge says she took his good record into account

Josh Breiner
Josh Breiner
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Niso Guetta in court, on Tuesday.
Niso Guetta in court, on Tuesday.Credit: Ilan Assayag
Josh Breiner
Josh Breiner

An Israeli court sentenced Chief Superintendent Niso Guetta on Tuesday to five months on probation for attacking a demonstrator and photographer during the protests against former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, near the prime minister’s official residence in Jerusalem in August 2020.

Rishon Letzion Magistrate’s Court Judge Einat Ron said, “An officer of his standing is actually measured during complicated moments and is expected to behave appropriately, and he failed in that.” Prosecutors asked the court to sentence Guetta, the operations officer for the Zion region of the Jerusalem District police, to public service work – but in her ruling, the judge said she took into account the defendant’s good record.

In her ruling, Ron wrote, “Even though the complainants did not suffer any real damage and this was not harsh violence, this violence does serve to violate the trust granted to Guetta in his position and to the Israel Police in general.”

The police’s disciplinary department is now expected to examine the possibility of firing Guetta, but senior police commanders, including police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai, have supported Guetta, so it is unlikely he will be fired.

The Justice Ministry unit for investigating police misconduct said after the sentencing that it hoped the ruling will be a warning sign to police about their obligation to act professionally and avoid the use of force and violence, certainly when it comes to a commander who is supposed to be an example to his subordinates.

According to the indictment, filed in November 2020, Guetta commanded a team which blocked a march that began at the entrance to Jerusalem and was heading to the prime minister’s residence on Balfour Street. Guetta pushed one of the marchers, Avichai Green, with great force after the latter complained to him about the conduct of his policemen. Guetta later violently attacked photojournalist Yalon Gurevich, who was documenting the arrest of another demonstrator. Gurevich’s glasses fell off as a result, and he suffered pain in his face and ear.

Guetta denied the charges and claimed that his conduct did not meet the definition of an assault. Even though he was documented striking Green, Guetta said he pushed Green in self-defense, worried that he would be infected with the coronavirus, and “in order to continue with his work.” Guetta also claimed that Green cursed policemen and that the photographer tried to block him when he led away an arrested demonstrator.

Judge Ron convicted Guetta on two charges of assault and rejected his claim of having acted in self-defense. “The accused was not assaulted and was facing no threat,” she determined. She noted that the versions of Green and Gurevich were credible, and that their conduct had not constituted a threat or disturbed police actions.

“It was not proved that they were a threat, and they could have been removed without resorting to force. The two plaintiffs were not atypical and could not be described as rioters. They could have been arrested, but this did not take place. They were not violent toward the accused or other policemen,” she wrote. The judge dismissed the claim that Guetta had shoved Green out of concern over being infected with coronavirus. Green plans to file a civil suit against the police and Guetta.

The evidentiary phase of the trial lasted more than a year, and the judge deferred hearings five times due to “court constraints.”

Guetta continued working after the incident, other than the first 24 hours, and received the full backing of his senior commanders, with officers working with him serving as character witnesses during his trial.

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