A Samaria resident and father of five children is suing the police for 15,000 shekels for mistakenly being arrested for 10 hours. He claims the false arrest was due to an error in the police computer and the thick-wittedness of the officers who refused to check his claims before they took him into custody.
The incident took place on Tuesday, when the man was walking with a relative in the Jordan valley. A passing patrol asked them for identity cards, and soon informed the plaintiff that he was being arrested.
According to the lawsuit filed Tuesday in Jerusalem Magistrate's Court by the civil department of the Honenu legal defense organization and that describes the course of events, the policeman did not answer the plaintiff's question as to the reason for his arrest and ordered him to get into the van.
Inside the police van the plaintiff was informed that he was being arrested because of an open subpoena against him, but the plaintiff replied that there could not be a subpoena for him, as two weeks previously he was present at a hearing held because of a conflict with police who came to arrest residents in one of the Samaria towns a few years ago.
The plaintiff explained that a few months previously a warrant was issued over his missing one of the hearings, but since then he has been arrested, he paid the fine determined by the court, and has attended two further hearings in the case.
The plaintiff's explanations did not help and the policeman refused to look into the matter. Instead, the plaintiff was moved to the Hevron police station, far from his place of arrest in the Jordan Valley. The Hevron police officers did not understand the issue, as the case had been heard in a Petah Tikva court and handled by the police Shai unit in Maaleh Adumim. The subpoena itself had already been carried out and was supposed to have been cancelled.
Only after a long period of inquiries, the duty officer in Hevron proposed that a friend of the plaintiff send the protocol showing that the subpoena had been carried out and that the arrested person had reported to recent hearings. He was released unconditionally late in the evening when it became clear that the plaintiff's declared status in the police computer as required by the court had mistakenly not been canceled.
Adding insult to injury, the police refused to return the plaintiff to his home and he was forced to return to his home in Samaria from Hevron by hitching rides, arriving late at night.
The lawsuit describes how the arrest caused complete chaos to the plaintiff's family.
"This is simply negligence, the failure to expunge the record from the police terminal caused the false arrest of the plaintiff," the suit states. "Beyond that, the investigation was done at the police station after the plaintiff was arrested and could have been done in the field without arresting the plaintiff. When the plaintiff explained the mistake to the policeman, the policeman should have listened or allowed the plaintiff to speak to the police station that issued the warrant, preventing the false arrest. More moderate police behavior might have attenuated the injury that was caused by negligent police record-keeping."
The Honenu organization, which is assisting the family in filing the claim, said in response: "Time and again we deal with false arrests resulting from police negligence. The strong-armed policemen who hear a citizen make detailed claims and refuse to check the story show their lumbering methods of operation. The price is paid by those civilian victims. Damages also come out of Israeli taxpayers' money, and the police cause a waste of time and resources for nothing. We hope that the police will learn something from the incident."
Police officials said in response that "the lawsuit has not been received. Once it is, we will study it and relate accordingly."