Demand to close case against journalist falsely detained over tweet

HaKol HaYehudi logo; Screenshot of website

Monday, March 15, 2021 11:23 Honenu Attorney Adi Keidar sent a letter to the Investigations and Intelligence Department of the Ma’aleh Adumim Police demanding that the case against Elhanan Gruner, a journalist with the HaKol HaYehudi website, be closed due to lack of guilt and that the identifying details taken from him be removed from the police database. Keidar stated that Gruner was interrogated under warning despite the facts that he presented which prove his innocence.
The case stems from a tweet Gruner posted on 22/12/20, after the incident in which Ahuvia Sandak, z”l, was killed in a car chase with detectives from the Central Unit of the Yehuda and Shomron Police. Gruner posted a video clip on his personal Twitter account from the scene of the incident in which a police investigator is seen smiling at the camera. Gruner added a caption: “This is the face of the Central Unit of the Yehuda and Shomron Police. An investigator arrives at a murder scene with a smile spread across his face.”
On Wednesday, March 3, Gruner was interrogated at the Ma’aleh Adumim Police Station on suspicion of “violating a legal order and disseminating false information,” due to a claim that the Jerusalem Magistrates Court issued a gag order on the name of the interrogator mentioned in the tweet. After the interrogation, Gruner’s fingerprints were taken, he was photographed, and in the end, he was unconditionally released.
The interrogation was not given the requisite authorization from the Deputy Attorney General, which is contrary to the police regulations regarding interrogating of journalists, and the police ignored the fact that Gruner is a card-carrying member of the Israeli Government Press Office. Additionally, the gag order was issued on 27/12/20, five days after Gruner posted the video clip and following a request by the Attorney General’s office, Twitter locked Gruner’s account until the above-mentioned tweet was removed.
In light of the removal of the tweet, the Union of Journalists in Israel wrote a letter to the Attorney General’s office demanding clarification of the matter and protesting the removal of the tweet. “The conduct of the Attorney General’s office is irregular and a significant injury to the journalist and thereby to the freedom of the press,” wrote Attorneys Moran Saborai and Amir Basha. Instead of responding and apologizing, the police went so far as to summon Gruner to an interrogation. After the interrogation, the Union asked the Attorney General’s office to immediately examine the matter and noted that they had turned to them regarding the removal of the tweet, and that they would demand “an immediate examination of the matter of the interrogation which was not in accordance with the regulations.”
In his letter, Keidar wrote: “On 1.3, after the police should have already understood their mistake, another interrogator by the name Roni phoned [Gruner], and despite the assertion of my client that he is a journalist and his request to know the reason for the summons, she disregarded his statement and demanded his immediate arrival [to the police station]. My client requested that she send a summons, as is required, however she refused.
“At no point did the police stop to check themselves, neither with regards to the reasonable suspicion which does not exist, nor with regards to his status as a journalist and what that entails concerning authorizations and the like. This topic is already well-known and discussed and will be taken care of by other channels.”
In conclusion, Keidar demanded that the case be immediately closed, stating that his client was interrogated although he was not guilty of anything and also demanded that his identifying signs be removed from the police database.
Elhanan Gruner: “The interrogation was not legal, constitutes harassment, and is the result of the investigative reports we publicized on the HaKol HaYehudi website. I expect the police to admit to this and to close the case as quickly as possible.”
Honenu Attorney Adi Keidar: “The ease with which people are silenced and their freedom of expression violated is intolerable. This time the rights of a journalist were trampled and he was forcibly summoned to an interrogation, despite numerous warning signs that it was not according to regulations.”

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