Israeli Court Releases Social Protesters, Criticizes Police's Request to Keep Them in Custody

Police decided to indict 37 of the 85 protesters arrested in Saturday's demonstration; Judge orders their release citing no criminal record or charges related to violence against property.

Tel Aviv Magistrate's court ordered on the Sunday the release of demonstrators who were arrested during a protest Saturday night.

Judge Tzachi Uziel rejected and criticized the police's unusual request to keep the suspect in custody, saying that they do not have criminal records and that the police should have released them until the proceeding against them come to a close.

The judge also warned of an infringement on freedom of expression and the right to protest, saying these are "basic rights… but they are not unlimited and whoever exercises… them must do so while upholding the law and not causing disorder or harming public safety." He added that none of the suspects are charged with the damage caused to bank windows on Saturday night.

The police decided to indict 37 of the 85 protesters arrested in Saturday's demonstration. Protesters charged that the police used excessive violence to disperse the demonstration, in which activists blocked major streets and highways, and broke into branches of Hapoalim, Leumi and Discount banks.

On Saturday night, when the police realized that it wouldn't be able to control the large number of protesters that arrived at Habima Square, they decided to allow the protesters to march on some major streets. At first no unusual events took place, but once the protesters arrived at Zeitlin Street, a group of protesters tried to break into a Discount Bank branch. Some protesters vandalized the bank's ATMs, others tried to break in through its windows. The police responded with force to this event sending police officers in, in large numbers, to clear the vandals out.

After that the protesters crossed the street to break into two other bank branches belonging to Leumi Bank and Bank Hapolaim. At this point violence broke out with the police rounding up and arresting protesters in large numbers.

Later during the evening, a group of some 300 protesters walked down to Ayalon Highway, the main route in and out of Tel Aviv, and blocked off the Hashalom intersection. After, the protesters continued to Tel Aviv's City Hall where they continued clashing with the police.

Officials at the Tel Aviv District Police said Sunday that the district may have been inadequately prepared for the protest. Officers in the district said that the police failed to correctly anticipate the number of protesters that would attend and the violent behavior that would ensue.