Mistaken identity led to detention, distancing order
Honenu Attorney Adi Keidar; Photo credit: Honenu
Thursday, August 15, 2019, 10:36 Due to the similarity of his name to that of someone who posted incitement against the LGBT community and the Ashdod Pride March on Facebook, David Cohen, an approximately 50 year-old K’far Saba resident, was interrogated twice, detained, and placed under house arrest. Additionally, his cell phone was confiscated. On Tuesday, July 30, Cohen received a phone call from an unlisted number. On the line was an investigator named Doron, who demanded that Cohen report to the Ashdod Police Station. After a discussion with a policeman named Yaniv, Cohen reported to the Police Station in the Russian Compound in Jerusalem. There, before he was informed of the charges against him, Cohen was interrogated by an interrogator named Mani Hadad. Cohen was asked about his connections to the City of Ashdod and he was told that he was accused of writing incitement on his Facebook page against the LGBT community of Ashdod during the time leading up to the Pride March expected to take place in the city two days later. Cohen told the interrogator, “I opened a Facebook account ten years ago and I haven’t done anything with it since then,” and added that he opposes such incitement. Additionally, he does not have any connection to Ashdod. Cohen stated that at the end of the interrogation the interrogator asked, “Wait a minute. If you didn’t write it, who did?” The interrogator released Cohen on condition of an order distancing him from Ashdod for 15 days. Because he had not done anything, Cohen refused to sign, and therefore he was detained, photographed, and his fingerprints were taken. At this time his cell phone was confiscated. Cohen was handcuffed and driven in a police car to the Ashdod Police Station. At the Ashdod Police Station, Cohen was forced to wait while still handcuffed, without being able to call his wife or an attorney, without having had anything to eat since before he arrived at the Russian Compound. In the end, Cohen agreed to be released on condition of distancing from Ashdod, complete house arrest for five days, and posting 2,500 NIS bail. On Friday, while Cohen was still under house arrest in K’far Saba, an officer from the Ashdod Police Station phoned his wife and asked why he wasn’t answering his phone. She replied that his phone had been confiscated by an interrogator at the Russian Compound. Cohen was summoned to another interrogation, this time at the K’far Saba Police Station. At this interrogation Cohen was asked the same questions about an additional Facebook post containing incitement. Cohen was released to his home, and then informed by phone that because the Pride March in Ashdod had already taken place the previous evening, he was released from house arrest and the distancing order. However the bail money and his phone were still with the police. Honenu Attorney Adi Keidar assisted Cohen and informed the police that they had erred in identifying who had posted the incitement. Keidar sent a letter to the Ashkelon Magistrates Court requesting that they order the police to return Cohen’s phone and the bail money he had been required to pay before being released to house arrest. In his letter Keidar noted that the police had “ignored many warning signs along the way, and had not examined the testimony of the petitioner.” In conclusion, Keidar requested “in light of the above-mentioned and the lack of a reasonable suspicion, the honorable court is asked to order the police to immediately return the bail money and the cell phone to the petitioner and to cancel the remaining release conditions and restrictions, and to impose legal expenses on the police.