Police officers who arrested Rabbi Dov Lior last month did so while abusing their power and violating his rights, his driver said on Monday.
The driver, Oren Fitoussi, was responding on Arutz Sheva’s Hebrew website to a media report several days ago about a meeting between a group of rabbis, including Rabbi Chaim Druckman of the Or Etzion Yeshiva, and police commissioner Major General Yohanan Danino. According to that report, Danino claimed during the conversation with the rabbis that Rabbi Lior's arrest was carried out while maintaining his dignity and observing the law.
Fitoussi, however, tells a different story. He told Arutz Sheva that two policemen had been waiting for Rabbi Lior’s vehicle as it was driving down on the Gush Etzion tunnel road. When one of them noticed that Rabbi Lior was in the vehicle, recalled Fitoussi, he called another officer who arrived on the scene.
“The officer opened the door and asked me if this is my vehicle,” said Fitoussi. “I told him it is, and he asked if I was sure. I said yes, and then he said that the police had been searching for me for a long time over a hit and run and that they had finally ‘got their hands’ on me.”
The officers’ claims surprised Fitoussi who has no past criminal record of any kind. He tried to argue that the police had made a mistake but they only responded by demanding that he show them his driver’s license immediately.
Fitoussi added that while he was embarrassed by the fact that the entire incident occurred in the presence of Rabbi Lior, he presented his license while again suggesting to the police that they had made a mistake. They would not hear of it, he said.
“I parked the car and went out to give them my license, and while I did so an undercover policeman in civilian clothes entered the car,” said Fitoussi. “I heard the door close. I turned around and saw the car driving off.”
He added that he began calling out towards the car, but to no avail. The policemen then took his own gun, put him in their vehicle and detained him as well.
Fitoussi said that he cannot understand how such an arrest takes place without a warrant and without cause. He said that when he read in the paper the words of the commissioner describing the detention as lawful, “I was shocked. Either the commissioner does not know what is going on with his officers, or a more serious situation is going on, about which I do not want to think.”
Rabbi Lior had been detained over the “haskama”, rabbinical approbation, he gave to the book Torat Hamelech. A “haskama” is found at the beginning of many Judaic works and signifies that the rabbi who read it testifies to the Halakhic coherence and accuracy of the writing. Authors attempt to get “haskamot” from famous rabbis for that reason.
While an arrest warrant had been issued for him, Rabbi Lior explained he believed he was not obligated to appear before the police despite the normative practice that one follow the law of the land because it was Torah itself being put on trial.
The police declined to respond to Arutz Sheva’s inquiry on the matter of Rabbi Lior’s arrest.