Thursday, June 18, 2015, 14:25 In the early afternoon on Thursday, June 18 a group of 18
hikers, who were detained in the morning and interrogated by the police at the Prophet Habbakuk’s tomb, were unconditionally released.
On the morning of Thursday, June 18 the police detained a group of youths, hiking with a guide and his young son in the north of Israel, several hours after an arson incident occurred at a church near Tevaria. As the group was saying morning prayers at the tomb of the Prophet Habbakuk, several police cars arrived at the scene, and the policemen informed the group of hikers that they were being detained. Then a large number of forces from the Central Unit of Yehuda and Shomron Police, Yassam (Special Forces) police, and GSS personnel arrived and detained the group for more than six hours at the scene. The forces also searched the hikers’ vehicles and backpacks.
Upon their detention the youths called Honenu for assistance. A representative rushed to the scene and discovered that the police had started to interrogate the youths at picnic tables out in the open in the complex of the the Prophet Habbakuk’s tomb. The youths denied all connection to the arson incident at the church. The policemen prevented the Honenu representative from entering the area in which the youths were being interrogated.
Honenu attorney Adi Kedar, who handled the case, wrote an urgent letter to the commander of the Department of Nationalist Crime in the Central Unit of the Yehuda and Shomron Police in which he objected to the detention and the conduct of the police: “It is impossible to escape the feeling that my clients were detained solely because of their appearance. It is completely obvious that the detention was carried out only in order to seem as if efforts were being made to solve the case, when it was completely obvious that this direction was not at all relevant,” wrote Kedar and continued. “The unbelievable sight of minors being interrogated out in the open in full violation of their legal rights is unacceptable and must be avoided at all times. I ask that you work towards the immediate release of all of the youths because if you don’t, you will be forced to bear the responsibility for the illegal conduct at this time in the north of Israel.”
After the detainees’ release Kedar also stated that, “The incident which occurred today was a genuine scandal. It was one of the worst incidents of police conduct. A group of youths on a hike were detained only because of their appearance. There was no other reason. There is not even a scrap of evidence linking them to the [arson] incident. Only the fact that the incident occurred in the north while they were hiking in the north led the police to carry out the illegal detention. I sincerely hope that the youths and their families take recourse to the full extent of the law so that incidents such as this are not repeated.”