Im Tirtzu activist sues Israeli Police

Sunday, December 30, 2018, 11:56 Honenu Attorney Menashe Yado, who is representing Im Tirtzu National Activist Coordinator Tom Nisani: “I hope that this suit will clarify the norm that it is permissible for people to film policemen in action, and it is forbidden for policemen to forbid them to do so. There are policemen who illegally prohibit people to document incidents, and there should be judicial tools to cope with this illegal practice, which sometimes leads to tampering with evidence, and also severe brutality out of the range of cameras, as is claimed in this case.”
Nisani is suing the Israeli Police for 30,000 NIS over violation of his freedoms of expression, protest and movement. The violation includes illegal demands by the policeman for Nisani to not film the incident, which is described below, and to enter a closed building, and unjustified brutal detention and assault.

Nisani documenting the incident; Video credit: Im Tirtzu

The incident occurred on Israeli Independence Day in May 2017, when Tom Nisani, the National Activist Coordinator of Im Tirtzu, stood with an Israeli flag at the entrance to an event marking Naqba Day on the Haifa University campus that was open only to Arabs. Despite the fact that the presence of the plaintiff with a flag “did not deviate from appropriate protest in a democratic society”, as stated in the suit, the university summoned police to distance Nisani from the site.
Commander Roni Cohen of the Daliyat El Karmel Police Station arrived at the scene and asked Nisani to leave. Nisani accompanied the policeman without resistance, while filming him and the goings-on, wondering why the policeman ordered him to leave the site despite the fact that his protest was democratic and legal. The policeman began to argue with Nisani about the legality of his filming and demanded that he stop. Nisani refused. After his refusal the policeman demanded that he enter a near-by building and said, “Soon you won’t be able to film, come… Soon you’ll understand why, come.”

Nisani accompanying Officer Cohen to the building; Video credit: Im Tirtzu

Inside the building the policeman continued to demand that Nisani stop filming, while Nisani’s friends continued to film from outside what was happening inside. In one of the video clips documenting the incident the policeman is seen waving his arm towards Nisani and continuing to demand that he stop filming, while Nisani refused to do so. Then the security personnel from the university closed the blinds and Nisani’s friends could no longer see what was happening in the room.

Nisani’s friends documenting the incident from outside the building; Video credit: Im Tirtzu

Nisani continued to film the policeman, who hit the cell phone several times in order to enforce his illegal demand by force. After the security personnel closed the blinds the policeman hit the cell phone again, and started to shout at Nisani that he pushed him, which he had not done. It was a pretext for the policeman to use force on Nisani to stop filming. After that the policeman used force on him, shouted at him that he was being detained and brought him into a inner closed room. Nisani’s videoed documentation ends here, and his friends were unable to see anything from outside.
Inside the inner room the policeman pushed Nisani on the chairs, tearing his shirt, and injuring his right hand. Nisani filed a complaint with the Police Investigation Unit, following which the policeman was brought to trial for a disciplinary infraction and found guilty of “illegal police brutality”.
Nisani decided to file a 30,000 NIS suit against the policeman for violation of his freedoms of expression, protest and movement, and also assault, false detention and false imprisonment. The PIU did take disciplinary action against the policeman, however he was tried before a sole judge and not before a disciplinary court, on which jurists sit.
The suit describes the injury caused to Nisani: For the violation of his freedoms of expression, protest and movement, Nisani is suing for 15,000 NIS and for the brutality and false detention he is suing for an additional 15,000 NIS.
Tom Nisani: “I sincerely hope that the court will clarify very well with the relevant parties how important the freedom of expression and the freedom to protest are, particularly concerning an event such as this, whose essence is negating the right of the State of Israel to exist as a Jewish and democratic state, and particularly at an event which was held at at an Israeli academic institution, a place where opinions should be heard and not violently silenced.
“Despite the fact that I expressed legitimate protest while holding an Israeli flag and protest signs opposite an event restricted to Arabs only, which denigrated the memory of those who fell for the sake of our Land during the War of Independence, Officer Cohen chose to take violent steps against me, to prevent me from documenting my being distanced from the grounds of the university, and to accuse me of false charges. It is incumbent upon me and upon all of us to protest events such as this. I truly believe that justice will be done in court.”

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