Jerusalem Pride Parade Killer Suspected of Plotting New Attack From Prison

Yishai Schlissel, who is serving a life sentence for the murder of Shira Banki at last year's parade, was questioned by police. His brother was arrested ahead of this year's event, taking place Thursday.

Yishai Schlissel at Jerusalem court. April 19, 2016.
Emil Salman

Yishai Schlissel, who is serving a life sentence for stabbing a marcher to death at last year's gay pride parade in Jerusalem, has had further restrictions placed on him in prison on suspicion that he was planning an attack on this year's parade, which is taking place on Thursday.

Schlissel, who was convicted of the murder of Shira Banki, 16, and the attempted murder of six other marchers whom he stabbed at last year's event, is suspected of planning an attack on this year's parade together with his brother Michael. Yishai Schlissel was taken from his prison cell on Wednesday for questioning by Jerusalem police. In preparation for Thursday's parade, police also arrested an individual whose name is subject to a gag order.

Schlissel's brother Michael was arrested on Wednesday, and other members of his family were detained and ordered to stay out of Jerusalem over concern that they would attack marchers in Thursday's parade. The family’s lawyer, Itamar Ben-Gvir, said the polices behavior constitutes “abuse just because they are relatives of Yishai Schlissel.” The Association for Civil Rights in Israel also slammed the decision, terming it an abuse of power. The group said police had also warned several activists opposed to the parade to stay away, thereby violating their freedom of expression and their right to protest.

Shira Banki, a teen who died a few days after being stabbed at the Jerusalem Gay Pride Parade.

At his arraignment last year for Banki's murder, Yishai Schlissel told the court: "Whenever there is a gay pride parade [you should] stop the blasphemy against God. Stop the madness and all the people of Israel should repent." Schlissel had also spent 10 years in prison for stabbing three participants at the 2005 Jerusalem gay pride parade.

In advance of Thursday's parade, police detained an activist from the far-right Hehava organization, whom law enforcement officials said had written inciting comments on Facebook regarding the parade. Police also detained four women in their 30s for questioning overnight Wednesday for spray-painting slogans on walls and buildings along the parade route that they said were designed to encourage people to attend the parade.

Commenting on the arrests in advance of the parade, Jerusalem district police commander Yoram Halevy said: "We have foiled and prevented plans to harm human life in the course of the parade itself. The parade will take place as planned without any change. It is our intention to enable the public at large to exercise their freedom of expression and to protest as part of the democratic character of the State of Israel."

Thousands of participants are expected to join the march, for which about 2,000 police have been dispatched to provide security. The marchers will lay flowers near the site where Shira Banki was stabbed to death and her parents will speak at the city's Independence Park at the gathering that will conclude the event.

The Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance, a LGBT community advocacy group, said it expects about 10,000 people to attend the parade, about double last year's crowd. The event in the capital follows the cancellation of a gay pride parade last week in Be'er Sheva after authorities, citing security threats, required that organizers change the route of the parade, which had been due to be held along a major stretch of the city's main thoroughfare.

One notable absentee from the Jerusalem parade is the city's mayor, Nir Barkat, who announced on Wednesday that he wouldn’t attend. “I won’t march because I don’t want to be part of something that offends the ultra-Orthodox community and the religious Zionist community,” Barkat said in an interview published in the daily Yedioth Ahronoth.

Barkat, whose municipal coalition includes several Orthodox parties, touted his record of working with the gay community and stressed that the marchers have every right to march.

“The Jerusalem municipality, the police and I will do all we can to enable them to exercise their right,” he said in the interview. “But they need to know that it offends others A large part of the population in Jerusalem has great difficulty with the parade.”