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Youths detained for asking Arab policeman to identify himself

Wednesday, May 18, 2016, 15:13 On the afternoon of Wednesday, May 18, Jerusalem Magistrate Court Judge Keren Miller accepted the opinion of Honenu Attorney Rehavia Piltz and ordered the release of two youths detained the previous day in the Mt. Zion area of Jerusalem on suspicion of disturbing a policeman in the line of duty and insulting a policeman. On the afternoon of Tuesday, May 17 the Arab policeman approached the two youths as they were walking from the King David’s Tomb complex on Mt. Zion, where they attend yeshiva. According to the youths the policeman demanded that they identify themselves and they asked him to present his police identity card. The youths explained that they wanted to verify that an Arab approaching them in the Old City of Jerusalem claiming to be a policeman was not a terrorist in disguise. The concern was valid in light of an incident which occurred on the previous Saturday, May 14, in which an Arab suspected of intending to carry out a terror attack was arrested and a police uniform was found in his possession. The policeman refused to show his ID card and after arguing agreed to show them only his police badge. When the youths attempted to photograph his badge, the policeman took the camera and hit one of them. Signs of his injury were presented to the judge during the deliberation. The youths were detained and taken to the Merchav David (Old City) Police Station where they were interrogated on suspicion of disturbing a policeman in the line of duty, insulting a policeman and possessing burglary tools, due to a thin metal rod – part of an umbrella frame – found in the possession of one of the youths. The youths were taken in the middle of the night to the detention center of the Russian Compound. The following morning they were brought to court. In court Honenu Attorney Rehavia Piltz explained that the thin metal rod found in the youth’s possession was part of the cheap umbrella frame he had found and that it bent easily, rendering the claim that it could be used as a burglary tool, harassment by the police. Upon being presented by the police investigator with a photograph of the rod, Judge Miller accepted Piltz’s opinion and ruled that it was not a burglary tool. During the deliberation the police investigator claimed that the two youths had been seen walking on Mt. Zion near the Church of the Dormition, which had in the past been set on fire, and had called the policeman “an Arab”. Piltz pleaded that the claim was demagogic because when the youths left the yeshiva which they attend they passed the church while walking on the main path used by pedestrians and they were verifying that the Arab was in fact a policeman, and not an impostor liable to be a terrorist. Judge Miller rejected the police demand to ban the youths from entering the Old City of Jerusalem for a lengthy period of time and also their demand that the youths be required to post bail. Judge Miller ruled that there is a reasonable suspicion only for disturbing a policeman in the line of duty, because according to the policeman’s claim they refused to be checked by him. In addition to the unnecessary detention the rights of the youths were violated. They were treated violently and during the deliberation it became known that that between the time they were detained, six in the evening, until three o’clock in the morning, when they were transferred to the care of the Prison Service, they did not receive any food from the police, as the law requires. Despite the fact that the elapsed time was nine hours, the police investigator stated in court that, “If the detainee did not receive food for two hours, it’s not a big deal.” Honenu Attorney Rehavia Piltz: “A policeman randomly approached youths studying somewhere only because they wear kippot and have payot, and demanded their identification cards in order to humiliate them. When they asked him to identify himself, as the law requires, the policeman made matters worse by beating them, and then claiming that a thin rod from an umbrella frame that a three-year-old could bend and couldn’t be used to break into a Lego block house, is a burglary tool? This is unacceptable harassment. We will file a complaint with the Police Investigation Unit on the matter.”

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