7 May 2012

Adalah Demands Criminal Investigation into Illegal Arrest and Abuse in Custody of 17 Demonstrators; Protest in Solidarity with Hunger-Striking Palestinian Prisoners

(Haifa, Israel) Yesterday, 6 May 2012, Adalah submitted an urgent complaint to the Head of the Police Investigation Unit in the Israeli Ministry of Justice ("Mahash") following the arrest and subsequent release of 17 demonstrators on 3 May 2012. The demonstrators were detained during a solidarity protest with Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike. The complaint detailed police harassment including physical, verbal, and sexual abuse, and violations of the demonstrators' rights under Israeli law. Adalah Attorney Orna Kohn submitted the complaint demanding an urgent criminal investigation.

On 3 May 2012, approximately 200 protestors gathered outside the Ramle Prison compound, where hunger strikers are being held in the Israel Prisons Service (IPS) medical center. They had a permit to protest issued by the police. At approximately 6:45 pm, after the demonstration ended and most participants had left, several individuals attempted to continue protesting by forming a picket line, which does not require a permit under Israeli law. However, the police violently attacked the group, beating them and using Tasers, even after the people were handcuffed. Eight participants including a minor were arrested.

After the initial arrests, some of protestors went to the police station to find out about the others' status. There, the police attacked and beat the remaining protestors and arrested an additional nine people. Another five individuals were fined for disturbing the peace.

Some of the women detained were sexually harassed, including threats of rape and repeatedly being called "bitches" and "whores." Derogatory slogans were also used against Palestinian protestors by the police. Attorney Smadar Ben-Natan of the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel took affidavits and testimony from protestors on their treatment at the police station that night.

The demonstrators were held overnight and brought before a judge on 4 May 2012. The police requested that the protestors be held in jail for another five days while the investigation was being conducted, however, after reviewing the "secret evidence" file presented by the police, the judge decided to release them to three days of house arrest. The protestors were represented by Adalah Attorney Orna Kohn and three volunteer lawyers from Ramle and Lod, Khalid Azberger, Saleh Abu Riakh, and Basem Hatu.

In the complaint to Mahash, Attorney Kohn also requested that the Tasers be seized in order to check the chip that records its use, in order to verify that they were used on protestors who were handcuffed, and while they were held in the police station.

Attorney Kohn emphasized in the complaint that this event is yet another example of the Israeli police's systematic brutality against Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel who demonstrate and exercise their right to free speech. "As on many other occasions, the police did not hesitate to end a legal demonstration using violence. There is nothing in the law that allows them to do this," she argued.