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Judge Overrules Police, Allows Anti-Pope Protests

Jerusalem judge refuses to remand youths who put up posters calling on 'impure' pope to get out of Israel.
By Orly Harari, Gil Ronen
First Publish: 5/23/2014, 4:02 PM

Judge Herbst
Judge Herbst
Courts Website

Jerusalem Magistrates' Court Judge Shmuel Herbst rejected early Friday afternoon a request by police to place two youths under house arrest for seven days, distance them from Jerusalem and slap them with a security deposit after they were caught putting up posters hostile to Pope Francis.

The posters said, among other things, that Christianity is an “accursed” religion that is complicit in the murder of millions of Jews, and that its leaders dream of “annihilating the Jewish state.” It called on the “impure” pope to “get out of our holy land” and “return the stolen vessels of the Temple.”

Police claimed this was incitement to racism but the judge rejected this, determining that “theological arguments and disputes between religions have existed from time immemorial and these arguments do not constitute a danger to the public.”

The judge added that there is a “very weak” case to be made against the sentence that says Christians dream of annihilating the Jewish state, but that it does not constitute racism in any case.

He ruled that the youths are allowed to protest against the pope, but determined that they may not come within 150 meters of him.

Attorney Itamar Ben Gvir of Honenu called the decision an important one and said that he hopes police will understand that it is permitted to protest against the pope and that “there is no place for muzzling of opinions.”

Nationalist activist Baruch Marzel had said earlier that these were "legitimate" posters, adding: "The Jerusalem police forgot what freedom of expression is. We won't forget and won't forgive the crusades, the Inquisition, and the rest of the suffering Christians initiated against the Jewish people; the pope is a persona non grata in Israel."

Police on Friday announced ten more nationalist activists would have restraining orders issued against them, bringing the total to 15 ahead of Pope Francis's visit next Sunday and Monday.

"Yesterday the head of the Jerusalem district mentioned that there would be a further 10," police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told AFP without giving details.

The detentions began Wednesday, when several Jewish youths were put under house arrest in a move justified by concerns they might carry out "provocative acts" during the pope's visit.