Leave Daphni Leef Alone

The conduct of the police in this affair should be seen as a scare tactic aimed at deterring future demonstrators.

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One week into the evidentiary phase of the trial of Daphni Leef for resisting arrest, it seems the heads of law enforcement – Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein and Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino – have begun to comprehend the injustice and the damage entailed in the show trial being waged against this leader of the social protest movement.

Weinstein and Danino announced that they will reexamine the criminal proceeding conducted by police against Leef since her arrest at a demonstration in June 2012, a demonstration that was designed to renew the protests of the previous summer.

Leef was charged with disturbing the peace, interfering with a police officer in the performance of his duties and using force or threats to resist arrest. The evidence phase has so far included the showing of video footage in which Leef does not even appear and testimony from a police special forces officer who said he saw Leef shove another officer, the identity of whom he could not remember. Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court Judge Shamai Becker, who had to silence laughing spectators in the courtroom during the previous session, criticized the police representatives for the poor quality of the evidence they presented.

Less amusing in the trial is the brutish attempt by law enforcement to muzzle freedom of speech and to criminalize those who dare to protest. The conduct of the police in this affair should be seen as a scare tactic aimed at deterring future demonstrators.

The gap between police testimony and the images captured in the majority of the video clips from the demonstration and uploaded to the Internet – the latter show officers using undue force against Leef in the course of her arrest – is also disturbing. It raises questions about the officers’ credibility and the motivation of the police in this affair.

“On the one hand I sit in court and know what a gap there is between what really happened and what the witnesses said, and on the other hand I understand how much this is a matter of the system … slowly but surely the understanding emerges that this is systemic and there is a not-such-invisible hand in it,” Leef said in an interview with TheMarker.

Weinstein and Danino, who are responsible for the rule of law and its enforcement, must put an end to the Leef affair and compel the police to retreat from the criminal proceedings against her. Beyond the fact that the police are diverting their resources from more burning issues, these proceedings violate the fundamental democratic principles of which the state is so proud.

Haaretz Daily Cartoon, 2/1/2014.Credit: Amos Biderman
Daphni Leef is more comfortable opposing Israel's political elite than mingling with themCredit: Daniel Tchetchik

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