A military court has released a Palestinian man accused of assaulting an Israeli settler on conditions that include staying away from his own land for 30 days.
Hafez Huraini was arrested last week on suspicion of aggravated assault on an Israeli and police sought to keep him in custody for another five days. But the Ofer Military Court said the evidence reveals a “complicated picture,” and neither side’s story seems to match video footage of the incident.
Two Israelis have also been questioned on suspicion of assaulting Huraini, whom his family says was herding sheep at the time on his own land near the West Bank village of al-Tuwani. One Israeli – the man Huraini is accused of injuring – was recently released from the hospital after eight days. The other Israeli had been previously investigated one year ago on suspicion of assaulting Palestinians in al-Mufagara, another village in the South Hebron Hills.
Police said they wanted Huraini kept in custody, so they could question him about the Israelis’ story and then file charges. But Huraini’s lawyer, Riham Nassra, said police hadn’t even bothered questioning him again in the day since they finished questioning the Israelis.
Huraini himself told the court, “I saw death before me – young, strong, masked men.” He pointed out that he suffered two broken arms in the incident and can neither feed himself nor go to the bathroom by himself.
The judge, Maj. Mazi Mekonen, criticized the police for taking over a week to question the Israelis, saying such a severe incident warranted a speedier investigation.
As for the “complex picture” presented by the evidence, she noted that “both sides were armed with offensive weapons that they ultimately used against each other and that even caused injuries. At this stage, each side says the other side started the assault and is claiming self-defense.” Both sides also refused to divulge information about others who participated in the incident, she added.
While grounds for investigating Huraini exist, she continued, there are no grounds for keeping him in detention. She therefore ordered him released on bail of 10,000 shekels ($2,890) plus a third-party guarantee for another 5,000 shekels – but on condition that he stay away from the site of the incident, which took place on his own land, for 30 days, as well as from the nearby settlement outpost of Havat Maon.
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His lawyer claimed that the allegations against him were refuted from the moment that a video clip of the incident was made available to the police and the public showing that he was attacked by armed and masked settlers.
“His 10 days in detention were only designed to obscure the truth and to maintain the false narrative that his accusers have created. During this period, the police refrained from questioning his attackers [as suspects] for nine days and in the process tainted the investigation that they are responsible for,” Riham Nassra said. “We will continue to demand that his name be cleared and that justice be meted out to the real attackers.”