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Police officer’s criminal prosecution for hate crime


An ultra-Orthodox resident of Jerusalem petitioned the High Court of Justice today, along with ACRI and the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel, demanding that the court order the Police Internal Investigations Department to criminally prosecute a police officer who assaulted and neutralized him, and then falsely claimed that he had attacked the officer. The petition was filed by attorneys Noa Levy and Efrat Bergman-Sapir of the Public Committee Against Torture, and Anne Suciu of ACRI.

As described in the petition, in May of 2017, a police action took place in the neighborhood of Mea She'arim in Jerusalem, wherein a police officer impersonated an ultra-Orthodox soldier and walked around the city streets. A group of small children jeered at him and one of them even threw a cucumber slice. A group of undercover civilian police officers seized the boy. David Rotman, a citizen who passed by, asked one of the officers, Eliran Esbag, "What did the boy do?" In response, Esbag jumped on him, grabbed him by the throat, dragged him and threw him onto the ground. After a few seconds, with Rotman still lying on the ground, handcuffed and held by two police officers, Esbag approached him and forcefully pulled his beard. As if that were not enough, Esbag proceeded to fill out a false arrest report in which he accused Rotman of "assaulting a police officer."

Although security cameras documented the incident and proved that Rotman neither touched the police officer nor did he resist his arrest at all, and although Esbag admitted this in his investigation with the Police Internal Investigations Department, he decided to settle for disciplinary proceedings against him. The procedure is expected to take place tomorrow. The State Attorney's Office reasoned that the attack and false complaint constituted a mere error of judgment.

The petitioners argue that the decision to refrain from criminal prosecution is extremely unreasonable. "The humiliating assault against the petitioner, while he was handcuffed and neutralized and held by two police officers on both sides, constitutes a grave crime, along with a cultural and religious violation, and it should be deemed a hate crime," the petition states. It was further alleged that “a false complaint is a grave offense. It threatens people's safety and raises concerns that the justice system will operate on its basis and convict innocent people."

The petitioners further claim that the message conveyed to other police officers is that they enjoy a "green light" for perpetrating violent acts against civilians, which are covered up through false complaints against civilians. The petition states that the phenomenon of false complaints against civilians being attacked by police officers is widespread and dangerous, both to citizens and the legal and justice systems alike, and thus "judicial intervention is necessary to instruct the enforcement system not to exempt police officers from criminal responsibility for their actions."

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