A Palestinian boy from East Jerusalem was severely beaten by police officers during his arrest and while in custody, an Israeli judge has found.
At 4 A.M. one morning around six weeks ago, about 30 police officers went to the home of a 15-year-old boy in East Jerusalem’s Silwan neighborhood to arrest him on suspicion of throwing rocks at police and civilian vehicles. Some were in plainclothes, some had their faces covered.
When five officers entered his bedroom, “he woke up and was frightened,” his father told Amer Aruri, a field researcher with B’Tselem. “I told him not to be frightened, they are policemen.” The boy told Aruri that when he heard that, “I started screaming. When I got out of bed, one of them shoved me and I shoved him back. The policemen threw everyone out of the room and started beating me. For several minutes, they kicked me and slapped me, and then they cuffed my hands behind my back and took me outside, barefoot and shirtless.”
“My mother gave them a shirt for me, but they used it to cover my face,” he added. “One of my brothers came after me and gave me my shoes.”
His father, Mohammed, told Haaretz his son “panicked” when the officers entered the room. “They came down on him brutally,” he said. “They hit his arms, back and face; they stepped on him.” His 11-year-old daughter “saw this and was dying of fear,” he added.
The boy was taken to the police station in Jerusalem’s Russian Compound. The next day, “when they brought him to court, I didn’t recognize my son, because his face was battered,” Mohammed said.
According to M., when they arrived at the station, the officers dragged him so violently “I almost fell on my face.” Then, in the interrogation room, “they put me on my knees and continued beating me. They slapped me, kicked me and hit me with the butt of a pistol or rifle all over my body. I can’t say how long it lasted.”
M. said he was questioned about an incident in which he threw rocks at police vehicles and settlers’ cars. He said the interrogation lasted 12 hours, and he was handcuffed throughout it.
“I was barely capable of speaking because of the pain from the beating,” he added. “I was also very thirsty. I asked for water, but they didn’t give me anything to drink. They also didn’t give me anything to eat.”
The officers questioned him in Arabic, “but they told me to sign documents in Hebrew,” he continued. “The investigator said this was my statement. I signed and then they moved me to a room that was essentially a cage with bars. I was still handcuffed. I was exhausted, hungry and thirsty, and I hurt all over.”
The next day, he was brought to the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court for a bail hearing during which police sought to hold him for another eight days. His lawyer, Muhamad Muhamad, pointed his bruises out to Judge Zion Saharay.
Saharay harshly criticized the police’s brutality, saying their claim that they were violent because M. was violent toward them “should never have been raised.”
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“He’s a 15-year-old boy, and small, so it doesn’t seem that it should have been difficult for several men to control him without kicking and hitting him so brutally,” he added, noting that M.’s lawyer had provided evidence of the beating through pictures as well as through the clearly visible marks on the boy’s body. “It’s evident that the officers beat him severely in a way that caused him real injuries all over his body – his neck, his back, his hands and his face.”
This, combined with his age and his lack of a criminal record, would normally be enough to justify his immediate release, Saharay continued. But due to the gravity of his alleged offenses, the judge ordered him held for another two days, after which he was put under house arrest for seven days. M. wasn’t questioned again during those two days, or at any time in the following weeks.
A medical exam after his release found clotted blood in his ear and a swollen upper lip.
At Saharay’s request, a protocol of the bail hearing was sent to the Justice Ministry department that investigates police misconduct, which has launched a probe.
Police said in a statement that Haaretz’s description of what happened is “partial, distorted and belies reality.” They said M. was arrested with a warrant on suspicion of assault and committing violent acts, including throwing stones and wounding a passerby in East Jerusalem.
While under arrest, “he physically assaulted the policeman,” the statement added, and he was initially handcuffed because he and his family resisted arrest. “The suspect continued resisting arrest, going wild and cursing even after he was brought for interrogation, including an attempt to headbutt one policeman.”
The statement also insisted that M.’s rights were protected throughout the interrogation, adding that police “view violence of any sort seriously, especially violence against policemen doing their jobs.”