Policeman Suspected of Assaulting Israeli Arab Leader in Custody to Be Tried

Jafar Farah was arrested following a protest in Haifa in May against Israel's policies in Gaza. He says that while in custody, the cop knocked him to the ground and handcuffed him with force

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Jafar Farah.
Jafar Farah.Credit: Rami Chelouche

The Police Internal Investigations Department announced on Monday that it is expecting to indict a police officer for assault and battery of an Israeli Arab leader while the latter was in custody.

Jafar Farah, the head of the Mossawa Advocacy Center, was arrested following a protest in Haifa in May against Israel's policies in Gaza. He was filmed walking to the protests, but was later hospitalized and arrived in court on crutches. He told the court that after he was arrested an officer broke his knee. Police began investigating the case after Farah's complaint.

The officer, Lior Hatam, has been on compulsory leave since May 28. The statement from the Justice Ministry states that prior to the decision whether to indict the officer or not, he will be allowed to present his case in a hearing.

Farah responded to the decision on Monday. "It's not just the solitary policeman. This is a system that has rotten in a culture of lies and violence. It's a shame police commanders cooperated for months with the lies about me. I expect the police chief to apologize for the different versions he gave in the days following the attack."

Video of Jafar Farah's arrest in May

In a statement on Monday, police emphasized that "the actions attributed to the officer are not consistent wih the values of Israel Police." The statement also wished to stress Hatam was put on leave immediately when the inquiry began, which was extended until PID made its decision on the case.

In May, Farah told Haaretz of the attack, saying “The police officer knocked me to the ground and handcuffed me with force. It was all very fast, a few seconds. He told me to get up and I couldn’t. He pulled me by the coat and took me to the bathroom [where] another policeman searched me ... After the bathroom they threw me on the floor again. I told the policemen it hurt, they tried to calm me down. They let me sit on a chair only when my lawyer arrived.”

Hatam denied using undue force against Farah, but witnesses have described his abuse during and after the arrest of the demonstrators.

Farah’s son, Bisan, said the officer picked him up by force and then threw him down. Amar Abu Qandil, one of the detainees, added that after he had commented on the treatment of the demonstrators, the officer threatened him and spat at a group of detainees.

Ali Mawasi, who was also detained at the police station, claimed the officers told the detainees, “Today we’ll make a feast of you, we’ll screw you,” and spat at them.

In June, Hatam’s attorneys, Samy and Lior Binyamin, responded that “unfortunately, the Israel Police is once again failing to learn lessons from what goes on in [investigations] and is exercising its authority on the administrative level. We can only regret that we are seeing a disconnect between those making administrative decisions in the national headquarters and the work of the police, because the decision makers don’t have sufficient knowledge about the work in the field."

The attorneys added that: “Harsh criticism has been heard from senior police officers in all districts against the decision makers on this plane, and we hope that the policeman will be restored to his job immediately, since he played no part in what the plaintiff or others with vested interests among his fellow demonstrators are claiming about him.”

In the past, Hatam wrote and shared posts on his Facebook page against the Arab and Palestinian communities. He also liked comments on his page, which called to harm protesters in Haifa. On October 2015, Hatam shared a flier titled: "Don't Buy Terror," which called for a boycott of Arab businesses.

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