The Ashkelon magistrate court has acquitted a 27 year-old Kiryat Malachi resident on charges of assaulting policemen and insulting a public official in 2012 after the police withdrew charges. It turned out that policemen had conducted an invasive rectal search contrary to procedures.
The court also had scathing words for the police’s in-house investigations department and the State Prosecutor’s Office for only now delivering an opinion on a complaint the man had filed against the policemen.The original charge against A. was filed in 2013, relating to an incident that had taken place six months earlier, in 2012. The police claimed that the man was found beneath his house, in contravention of restrictions that had been placed on him upon his earlier release from prison. When apprehended he was in possession of garden shears, which he said he was using for gardening. According to the charge sheet the man went wild inside the police van and hit one of the policemen. He continued with his violent behavior at the police station, cursing policemen, calling on them to meet him outside without their uniforms on.
A. claimed that all he wanted to do was notify his sister that he’d been arrested, saying he wasn’t behaving wildly in the police car and that he only cursed the policemen after one of them started conducting a rectal search on him while he was naked. He said his clothes and underwear were torn off by the policemen for the purpose of conducting the search. “I was humiliated,” he stated in the complaint he filed. “The policeman put on gloves and conducted a search in my rear end.”
A. filed a complaint with the police’s internal investigations department but it closed the file shortly afterwards. In 2014 his attorney from the public defenders’ department, attorney Yoram Sagui-Sachs, appealed the closure but this was addressed by state prosecutors only in October 2017 and sent back to the internal investigations unit. Last week, five years after charges were first laid, A.’s trial began but his attorney demanded that the case be closed due to the extended legal process.
“There is no doubt that the state’s conduct borders on the scandalous,” said the judge. “The fact that they want to call witnesses today, after investigators finally finished preparing the file, is problematic, to say the least.” A policeman testified that he and his colleagues had asked A. to strip so they could search him, but he objected. At this point his underwear was ripped off and one policeman put on gloves, proceeding to search his rectum. “We wanted to conduct a meticulous search on him,” explained the policeman. “He could have been carrying drugs or a weapon. At first he consented to the search but later he resisted.”
After the policeman testified, the police decided to withdraw the charges, so A. was immediately acquitted. His attorney then demanded that A. be compensated by the police.
“There are few cases which deprive me of sleep but here we see a helpless accused man faced with an arbitrary use of power,” said Sagui-Sachs. “The policemen’s conduct was inhumane; it wasn’t the way humans behave. It was important to me that they testify so that they feel shame at their actions. This was an unauthorized action, and what’s more shocking is that the policeman testified here that conducting searches on stripped prisoners is a routine procedure. The accused underwent a traumatic experience, it made him break down in tears – one can only try and imagine what he went through.”
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The court’s decision on compensation will be made in the coming weeks.
A police spokesman responded: “This was an incident that happened in 2012, in which the suspect was seen violating his release conditions. He was then detained by policemen. He was charged in August 2013 after his complaint against the policemen was investigated by the internal investigations unit, which dismissed the case. The accused’s attorney decided to appeal the decision to close the file. Searches are always conducted according to procedures and the law. At this point, before a final ruling is given in this appeal, we are unable to relate to charges against these policemen. If it transpires that the search was illegal it will be addressed using all available methods.”
The State Prosecutor’s Office said that the appeal filed in August 2014 was rejected out of hand since it was filed after a delay of more than one year. Following the court’s decision another request was made on behalf of the plaintiff – this was only received these days and is being dealt with in the office’s appeals department.