Former border police officer Mordechai Mehager, part of the Yassam riot police unit, insists that police officers who clashed with demonstrators in Amona in early 2006 were told to use violence.
Mehager is facing a lawsuit filed by Yishai Greenbaum, a young activist who says Mehager beat him with a club for two full minutes on his head, arms and legs, leaving him with a permanent handicap. Mehager was identified from video footage in which he is seen beating nonviolent protestors with a police club.
The suit was filed by Yesha Human Rights Organization lawyer Chaim Cohen, who wrote in the petition that, “the accused – officer Mehager – exceeded the authority granted to him by law and police regulations, acting in an independent manner and exercising excessive force without justification. Alternatively, if it turns out that the accused received ‘orders from above,’ then we are dealing with unacceptable orders whose implementation should have been refused.”
Simultaneously, a police Machash (Internal Affairs) investigation examined the incident and it was decided to indict Mehager pending the outcome of the civil trial.
State prosecutors declined to offer Mehager the defense and immunity normally afforded civil servants and stated that if he is fined, he will be required to pay the damages himself. Prosecutors explicitly conceded that Mehager used excessive force against Greenbaum in its response to the petition.
Mehager has now come out in force against the police, saying that what caused the violence was orders telling police officers to use their clubs whenever necessary.
Mehager’s lawyer has filed a motion seeking a subpoena of police records and archives, saying he is playing the role of scapegoat to satisfy political elements on behalf of the police. “The preparations for the eviction consisted of a week’s worth of vague briefings, yet clear instructions were given that in any case of need batons should be used,” Mehager testified. He added that if the orders were indeed illegal, it should be those who gave them that are put on trial and made to compensate the victims.
The Yesha Human Rights Organization said it awaits the decision by Police Internal Affairs to file a criminal indictment against Mehager. The group pointed out that there are far more active civil cases against violent police officers from Amona than there are Internal Affairs investigations and lamented the fact that the cases continue to drag on for months with no progress.