The State of Israel will pay a Samaria couple 4,500 NIS ($1282) for an unjustified search of their vehicle, a judge in Tzfat's Magistrates Court ruled.
A year and a half ago, the couple traveled with their infant son to the gravesite of the Ari in Tzfat. When they arrived at the site, policemen asked the father to show his license, after which they insisted on searching the family's car. At the same time, a female officer performed a body search on the mother.
When the officers found a knife in the car, they took both parents and their baby to the local police station for interrogation. Upon completion of the interrogation, the family was released. However, one of the conditions of their release was that they not visit Tzfat.
The couple demanded compensation for the injury to their privacy, honor, property rights, and the limits on their freedom. They also said the police officers' actions included carelessness, unlawful imprisonment, and assault, and led to the family ending their vacation early.
In their letter of defense, the Northern District State Prosecutor said the couple's car was searched as part of a routine inspection, and the driver was asked to present his license. The couple's behavior aroused the officers' suspicions, and a background check revealed that he was known to the police.
Therefore, the letter claimed, the officers searched the family's car, where they found a knife in the glove compartment.
Despite the couple's claim that the wife used the knife for cutting objects, the officers insisted on detaining the couple for carrying a knife for improper purposes.
The judge admitted that the search was justified, since the husband was known to the police and his behavior seemed suspicious. This is especially true, he said, since the incident occurred near a sensitive site. However, the judge also said police must be wary of over-inspection and accepted the couple's claim that the officers did not provide an explanation for the search or detention, despite the fact that they should have done so.
The judge therefore ruled that the State pay the couple 3,000 NIS ($854), in addition to 4,500 NIS ($1,282) in legal fees.
Honenu attorney Menashe Yado, who represented the couple, said that "the court hit the [police's] pocket."
"This is exactly the way to make Israel Police understand that officers are obligated to certain norms when they meet civilians," he added.