"Jerusalem police responded, saying it was an illegal protest of anarchists and leftist activists who did not listen to police orders."
Following forceful diffusion of legal protest on Friday and the arrest of 17 participants, Court releases all of them without charges, claims Police was wrong to arrest them
Update:17/01/2010January 17, 2010: Following a late-night Court hearing last night, all 17 protesters arrested following Friday's quiet and lawful demonstration in Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem, including ACRI Executive Director Hagai El-Ad, were released without charge or conditions.
The Jerusalem Magistrates Court ruled, in response to arguments prepared by a team of lawyers led by ACRI, that the demonstration was of the type that did not require a permit and as such the police were not acting on the basis of protecting the public order in arresting the protesters. The Judge further ruled that there was no rationale for the arrests or for the diffusion of the demonstration.
On Saturday night, a protest vigil attended by about 150 individuals was held at Jerusalem's Russian Compound during a hearing at the Magistrates Court to support the release of the 17 protesters and to condemn the arrests which constitute a severe breach of freedom of expression. ACRI condemns the arrests of the demonstrators as a severe and troubling blow to Israeli democracy.
Press release - January 16, 2010: Following the arrests on Friday of 17 demonstrators in Sheikh Jarrah, including Hagai El-Ad, ACRI’s Executive Director, ACRI strongly condemned the suppression of the protest by the police, which was done without legal justification. The protest was disbanded by force even though it was held legally, without provocation or disturbance to public order.
ACRI warns that this is part of a worrying trend on the part of the authorities to limit freedom of demonstration and arrest demonstrators under false or illegitimate pretenses. ACRI's Chief Legal Counsel, Dan Yakir, stated that the police's claim that the protest was an unlawful gathering was baseless, as the law recognizes the importance of the basic right to demonstrate and allows protests of large numbers of people so long as no disturbance is caused to vehicles and no political speeches are made. Yakir said, “The police's claim that by using a megaphone the protesters turned the event into one in which political speeches were voiced is absurd, and it's a claim which has been dismissed on previous occasions. The law referred to was intended to broadly allow demonstrations, and therefore it is clear that the arrests were carried out unlawfully".
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) issued a condemnation following the arrests. Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director of the ACLU, said, “We wish to express our steadfast support for the right of Hagai El-Ad and our sister organization, ACRI, to protect and promote civil liberties and human rights in Israel. While we take no position on domestic issues within Israel, we are deeply concerned that one of Israel's top human rights’ leaders has been detained for peaceably expressing his views”.
The New Israel Fund also condemned the arrests. Daniel Sokatch, NIF's Chief Executive Officer, said: “Following last week's detention and interrogation of activist Anat Hoffman for leading a women's prayer group at the Western Wall, it appears that a disturbing pattern of police intimidation is beginning to emerge. NIF stands shoulder to shoulder with Hagai, Anat and other civil society leaders working to build a better Israel. Attempts to silence their voices only serve to remind us how critical it is that we continue - and indeed redouble - our support for their efforts."
Background:During the past five months, Israelis and Palestinians have held joint protest marches and demonstrations against the eviction of two Palestinian families from the homes they've lived in since 1948 so as to allow Jewish families to inhabit these homes, located in the heart of a Palestinian neighborhood.
The court accepted the claims of the Sephardic Community Committee, according to which the homes were owned by Jews before 1948. However, the eviction was met with strong condemnation and international uproar since according to Israeli law, Palestinians who left their homes during times of war, in 1948 and 1967, are barred from reclaiming their properties. Thus, the asymmetry in which reclaimed property is dealt with by the Israeli authorities and in light of the severe infringement on the basic rights of the Palestinian families - rights to life in dignity, shelter and property - several groups and individuals began organizing peaceful protests at the site of the homes.
Last updated 17/01/2010
Last updated 17/01/2010