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Court ruled: Nationalist graffiti is not a “price tag” incident

Sunday, April 7, 19:06 In an exceptional decision on Sunday, April 7 Jerusalem Magistrate Court Judge Hagit Mak-Kalmanovitch set a precedent by releasing a youth detained on suspicion of spray-painting nationalist graffiti. The judge ruled that the misdemeanor is not defined as a “price tag” incident and therefore does not constitute cause for holding a suspect in remand. Honenu welcomes the decision and hopes that this is the case which heralds the legal system’s return to rational enforcement of the law. On the morning of Sunday, April 7 an 18 year old resident of the community of Ma’aleh Levona in the northern Binyamin region was detained at his home and taken to the Central Unit of the Yehuda and Shomron Police Station in Ma’aleh Adumim. During interrogation the detainee was told that he was suspected of spray-painting graffiti on a structure belonging to Arabs in the area in which he resides. Additionally in the detainee’s room rifle bullets were found hanging off of his bedroom wall, according to him as decoration, for which he was accused of possessing ammunition. The detainee fully cooperated during interrogation and denied all charges. Later the same day the detainee was taken to the Jerusalem Magistrate Court where the police demanded a five-day remand extension in order to continue the investigation. During the interrogation the police representative admitted to Honenu attorney David HaLevi, who is representing the detainee, that the above mentioned incident occurred several months ago and that possession of ammunition was not the reason for either the search of the detainee’s room or his detention. Despite the refusal of the police representative to specify the details of the charges against the detainee, Judge Mak-Kalmanovitch mentioned this in her decision. According to her the detainee is accused of spray-painting graffiti reading “Death to Arabs” and other words which could be interpreted as a threat. Concerning the ammunition hanging off of the detainee’s bedroom wall the judge wrote that even though it is an improper act it does not qualify as a violation of the law. Concerning the accusation of spray-painting “price tag” graffiti Judge Mak-Kalmanovitch wrote thus, “I reason that even though the act in question is a misdemeanor which has immoral and ugly aspects, there still remains a difference between such an act, which is worthy of denunciation, and cause for remand. In the request for remand it was written that the defendant is ‘suspected of committing a ‘price tag’ incident’. In the material which was presented I found nothing relating to a ‘price tag’ incident other than the spray-painted graffiti. In circumstances such as these in which there is not even a hint of violence or dangerous behavior beyond spray-painting graffiti, I reason that there is no cause to detain the defendant.” Later the judge rejected the demand by the police to delay carrying out the decision until an appeal is filed. According to the judge even though a demand for delay in carrying out a decision is usually accepted by the court, this is an exceptional case. The detainee’s representative, Honenu attorney David HaLevi, stated in response to the court’s decision that, “For a long time the Israeli Police have been accustomed to and have gotten the public accustomed to a situation in which any graffiti immediately is considered a ‘price tag’ incident which warrants remand. The court in today’s decision legitimately returned the situation to its proper proportions by ruling that not all graffiti constitutes a ‘price tag’ incident warranting remand. The release of my client speaks for itself.”

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