Palestinian Teen Spends 21 Days Behind Bars on False Charges

Prosecution ditches case against Beit Hanina youth after CCTV footage proves his innocence.

The Prosecutor's Office declared on Tuesday that it would cancel all charges against a Beit Hanina youth who was held in custody for three weeks on false charges of aggravated assault, after closed-circuit television footage proved that two Border Police officers lied to the court from the start.

The Jerusalem Magistrate Court freed Udai Biomi, 20, unconditionally, after the screening of the footage clearly revealed that it was actually Biomi who was attacked and not vice versa, as the two officers wrote in their report and under investigation. Biomi intends to complain against the two officers who were the cause of his false arrest and might also sue them for civil damages.

Biomi is a resident of Beit Hanina, in the northeast of Jerusalem. In mid October a Border Police unit entered the neighborhood to check on a prisoner under house arrest. According to the indictment, the officers asked local residents, including Biomi, for help in finding the address. "Get out of here," Biomi allegedly told the officers, "just use your computer." One of the officers told him to leave and the unit continued on its way.

After a short distance the Border Police vehicle stopped again. Biomi, according to the indictment, approached the car with four others and began swearing at the officers. One of them, Staff Sgt. Aviv Peretz left the car and later told police that at this stage he was, for no apparent reason, violently attacked by Biomi: "Suddenly he head butted me in the forehead," Peretz testified. "He began to get wild and tried to punch me." Staff Sgt. Yehiel Uziel, seconded Peretz's testimony: "When Aviv left the car, the suspect approached him, head butted him in the head. I was the driver and I saw it because it was on my right. I left the car and approached the suspect. He said to me 'who do you think you are,' and punched me on my right shoulder." Uziel said that for that reason he used the pepper spray, not before warning the suspect that it would be used if he didn't calm down: "I warned him I would use the pepper spray but he continued to act wildly. I sprayed him in the face," Uziel testified.

Peretz added that "when Yehiel shouted 'I'll use the pepper spray, and the guy continued to go wild, and Yehiel sprayed him, he ran into a local grocery store." Peretz and Uziel testified that Biomi continued to attack them. "He punched me in the eye," Peretz testified. The interrogator asked both of them if they had, in fact, first attacked Biomi, but both denied it.

Following the event, the Prosecutor's Office indicted Biomi for aggravated assault on a police officer, and requested he be held in custody until tried. The request was accepted and Biomi was imprisoned.

The dramatic turn of events occurred on Tuesday when Biomi's attorney, Mahmoud Rabah received footage from a camera positioned next to the grocery store, recording the complete event from start to finish. The footage clearly shows that the Peretz and Uziel were the ones that attacked Biomi violently, sprayed him at point blank range, continued to attack him in the grocery store, and then packed him into the Border Police vehicle.

The screening caused a drama in Judge Eitan Kornhawser's court. The Prosecutor's Office attorney requested a break, after which she announced that the process against Biomi would be immediately halted, and that the Prosecutor's Office would soon retract officially all charges based on the officers' testimonies.

Biomi's attorney told Haaretz: "Unfortunately this is but one example of many of how citizens are accused of attacking police officers, when the officers were actually the aggressors. Unfortunately, the courts often believe the officers - and the citizens remain under arrest. Fortunately, in this case we had footage proving that the officers coordinated their testimonies and falsely accused the citizen. I'm happy that justice was served."