Wednesday, July 16, 2014, 17:46 For the past nine days four soldiers in the Lavi battalion of the K’fir brigade have been in remand on suspicion of beating an Arab in the area of Halhul, near Hevron.
On the night between Sunday, July 6 and Monday, July 7 an Arab
resident of East Jerusalem complained that he had been assaulted at the Halhul intersection north of Hevron when he was riding a motorcycle. According to him the soldiers beat him with their fists and their weapons and also damaged his motorcycle.
There were no witnesses to the incident and it was not documented by camera, but already in the morning following the complaint investigators from the Criminal Investigation Division (CID) of the IDF rushed to detain four soldiers who were stationed in the area. The Arab claimed that one of the soldiers who beat him was a red-head. CID investigators located a red-headed soldier serving in the area and he was detained along with three other soldiers who on the night of the incident were on guard duty in a tent that was set up at the Halhul Junction after the three youths were kidnapped in Gush Etzion.
Upon their detention the soldiers turned to Honenu, which assists soldiers – and civilians – who find themselves in legal entanglements due to defending themselves against Arab aggression, or due to their love for Israel.
The four detained soldiers deny all involvement with the incident and gave consistent alibis that after their guard duty in the tent, they walked to their base without passing through the site of the incident. Additionally the soldiers were not identified by the complainant in the line-ups conducted by the military police.
Despite that their remand was extended. The main claim by the military police is that the detainees were in the area at the time of the incident. Additionally the military police investigators claim that there is confidential material linking the soldiers to the incident.
Honenu points out a series of investigatory failures that were carried out by the military police. The investigators acknowledged that they did not examine the possibility that reserve soldiers or civilians were involved with the incident and were satisfied with examining the regular service soldiers serving in the area. The investigators even accused the soldiers of disrupting the investigation by oiling their weapons with diesel fuel in order to prevent examining them. Only after an additional verification did the investigators retract what they had said and authorize that the accusation that they had disrupted the investigation was baseless.
Additionally, it was only after attorney Chai Haber, who is representing the soldiers on behalf of Honenu, was it checked that the motorcycle is insured and it turned out that the motorcycle does not have insurance. As a result of that, and because no-one was witness to the incident, the suspicion that the complainant damaged his own motorcycle and decided to blame the soldiers in order to collect compensation money is being examined. The CID is refraining from examining whether or not the complainant has a criminal record.
While the soldiers were in remand on Sunday, July 13 a deliberation took place on their case without the presence of an attorney, which is very unusual.
Haber informed the CID on the morning of Sunday, July 13 that he would be late to the scheduled deliberation due to another deliberation at which he was representing a client. Despite that, Judge Ronen Shor refused to wait until Haber arrived and conducted the deliberation without the presence of a defense attorney and extended the soldiers’ remand until Thursday, July 17. Haber appealed the decision and the remand was shortened by two days. On Tuesday, July 15 the remand was extended again until Thursday, July 17.
The four soldiers had participated in the search for the three youths who were kidnapped in the Halhul region. Friends of the soldiers expressed anger about the remand and the fact that instead of being allowed to carry out their missions in the field, the soldiers are forced to remain in remand without cause.
“This investigation is being conducted on four experienced soldiers on the basis of a completely baseless complaint filed by an Arab,” said Haber “Despite their sweeping denial and their report that they were not present at the site at the time of the incident and despite the fact that the complainant was not able to identify any of the soldiers in military police line-ups, for a reason which remains unclear, military investigatory authorities continue to insist upon requesting remand extensions. Conduct such as this towards soldiers, and failure to exhibit elementary trust in their statements is liable to cause major damage and undermine what remains of the confidence that soldiers have in the military system.”
Honenu said, “Time after time we encounter requests from IDF soldiers and border police who find themselves under investigation due to security operations. The situation in which four exemplary IDF soldiers find themselves detained for an extended period due only to an unclear complaint from an Arab is outrageous . The soldiers deny all connection to the incident and no evidence has been presented to them indicating their involvement. It is unfortunate that the IDF rushes to prosecute soldiers, due only to distorted morality and fear of left-wing organizations and international antisemitic organizations.”