Police May Face Criminal Charges after Violence Case Reopened
Two police officers may face criminal charges over their attack on two detainees, thanks to the Yesha Human Rights Organization, which picked up the cause and got a closed case reopened.
The incident in question took place four years ago. Friends “Y” and “H,” both members of the Breslov chassidic movement, became victims of police violence shortly after calling police themselves, to report an apparent theft.
The two had called police after seeing occupants of a van apparently stealing metal. When two police officers arrived, however, they demanded that Y and H accompany them to the station. The officers gave alternate explanations for the demand; one said that one of the friends owed money, while the other said he suspected they had stolen an amplifier that was in their car.
The two were taken to the station in separate cars. According to Y, the officer who transported him told him, “Your friend hates policemen, I'll show him...”
When they arrived, H asked to use the bathroom, and was told “Go in your pants.” From there things went downhill quickly. H, who had already been searched, started walking towards the bathroom, and an officer responded by kicking him so hard he flew across the room.
Y asked why his friend had been hit. In response, the officer hit him several times in the face, and pulled his beard.
Both Y and H began to scream for help, but none of the officers present intervened. The two were then separated, and the officers told Y that if he did not admit that there had been no violence, he would be accused of various crimes. Y made a confession according to which there had been no violence – a confession that he later recanted, saying it was due only to the pressure that had been put on him.
The two went to Orit Strook of the Yesha Human Rights organization. The group and Strook have gained a reputation for their ability to successfully fight police violence after prosecuting several officers over the violent repression of a protest in Amona in early 2006.
Despite the assistance of Strook and Attorney Yaakov Menkin, the case was closed by an internal police investigation unit for lack of evidence in February 2010. The two attorneys decided not to give up and appealed to the State Prosecutor's Office. In a rare, possibly unprecedented move, the Prosecutor's Office was convinced that there was evidence against the two officers, and agreed to reopen the case.
Strook expressed satisfaction with the decision, and said, “I will continue to act until every officer knows and internalizes the fact that the power given to him by law needs to be used in moderation, and only when necessary.