Attorney Yitzchak Bam
Attorney Yitzchak Bam Photo: Miryam Tzachi

A Jerusalem Magistrate's Court judge Dov Pollock yesterday (Monday) acquited a young man from the town of Shiloh of the charge of assaulting an IDF officer.

Despite the fact that the officer's testimony was found to be reliable, and he claimed to recognize the young man as the one who assaulted him, the judge accepted the argument of defense counsel Attorney Yitzchak Bam that it was simply a case of mistaken recognition.

The story began three and a half years ago, when a paratroopers reserve battalion was providing security for a group of Arab residents of Kutzra who were plowing fields near the town of Esh Kodesh. The plowing by Arabs near the Jewish town elicited protests.

According to the officers providing security for the Arabs, one of the Jewish residents ran toward the Arab workers, and the IDF officers rushed to stop him. During the resulting skirmish the resident hit one of the officers on his helmet and was then arrested, but the officers were forced to release him because the situation had escalated in the meantime and the Arabs had started throwing stones at them.

Three hours later, after police arrived at the scene, two of the paratroopers officers claimed they recognized the youth who had assaulted them standing among a group of Jews who had come to protest the Arab work near their town.

The youth who was singled out by the officers was arrested and indicted for assaulting a public official and obstructing a public official.

The Jerusalem court exonerated the youth yesterday, with the judge saying that he personally believes the officer wholeheartedly when he says he recognizes the man who assaulted him. Yet judge Pollock ruled that there was not enough evidence to prove that this was not a case of blameless mistaken identification by the officer.

The judge emphasized the fact that the officer is a secular person from the Tel Aviv area of the country, while the youth is from the hills of Shiloh. According to the judge, the fact that the two come from different social groups raises the chances that there was an honest mistake made in the identification.

Attorney Yitzchak Bam, a public defender who represented the accused youth, said in a statement that "honest mistakes in identifying suspects are one of the main causes of false convictions. This kind of case is especially difficult, because the witness perfectly honestly believes that he recognizes the suspect, while in fact it's a mistake. I'm happy that in this case the court was aware of the difficulties raised by spontaneous recognition by an eye-witness and brought justice to light."