Jewish youths detained on suspicion of beating Arab youths, mentally disabled detainee released

Monday, August 11, 2014, 10:06 Ten Jewish youths from the Neve Ya’akov neighborhood of Jerusalem were detained due to suspicion of involvement with an incident in which two Arab youths wandering around the center of the neighborhood were beaten approximately two weeks ago. One of the Jewish youths, who has a mental disability, gave a false confession under threats during interrogation, and has already been released by the Israeli Supreme Court. “What were two Arabs youths looking for in that neighborhood in the middle of the night?” asked Honenu attorney Naftali Wertzberger. “Their intents were not those of innocent passers-by.”
Indictments are expected to the filed on the morning of Monday, August 11 at the Jerusalem District Court against several of the youths who are suspected of involvement with the above mentioned incident.
The two Arab youths were evacuated to the Hadassa Ein Kerem hospital suffering from bruises after the attack.
One of the detainees was supposed to enlist in an IDF combat unit two days after his detention. Due to his detention his enlistment is currently prevented. One of the other detainees served in the Israeli Police for several years and today works as a security guard. An additional detainee, who completed combat service in the IDF, also works as a security guard.
“One of the questions for which I have not yet received a reply is what did two Arab youths from Beit Hanina want to do in the center of Neve Ya’akov on Shabbat after midnight,” said Honenu attorney Naftali Wertzberger, who is representing two of the detainees. “My feeling is that there is a serious concern that they came to try to start up with girls or that they had criminal intent. Of course that is not justification for an assault, however their [the Arab youths'] intents were not those of innocent passers-by, and we have not received an answer to this question, which puts this incident in a completely different light.”
Honenu, whose attorneys are representing three of the detainees, stresses that all of the detainees, except for one mentally disabled youth, deny all charges and gave alibis. The police are basing the case mainly on the testimony of the mentally disabled youth.
Attorney Wertzberger, who is representing the 15 year old mentally disabled youth who learns in a special education class, stresses that the youth gave testimony after interrogators from the Central Unit of the Jerusalem Police applied severe pressure on him. He later retracted his testimony stating that he had tried to protect his brother who was also detained in the same case.
At first he gave testimony only as a witness. At the request of the youth’s family Honenu attorney David HaLevi asked to meet with him before the interrogation, however the interrogators from the Central Unit of the Jerusalem Police claimed that he was taken in only as a witness and therefore it was not possible for him to meet with an attorney.
After half an hour the police decided to interrogate the youth as a suspect, but the interrogators, despite the fact that they knew that HaLevi is representing him, did not phone HaLevi so that he could brief his client, but rather phoned a public defender. “As a result he [the mentally disabled youth] confessed and told a complete story, complicated matters for himself and for others, combined parts of rumors going around his neighborhood, and apparently also gave details which do not match the incident,” said Wertzberger.
“They threatened him, pressured him and assured him that he would go home and that his brother would also be released if only he talked. He thought that if he told stories then they would release him and his brother. Later he retracted his testimony and said that he had made up the story, and he stuck to that statement also during additional interrogations, and claimed that he said what he had said in order to reduce the pressure from the interrogators.”
Due to the particular circumstances the youth was released already at the stage of the plaintiff’s affidavit. The Jerusalem Magistrate Court ruled on a remand extension, however the Jerusalem District Court accepted Honenu’s appeal and ruled on his release. The police appealed to the Supreme Court, however the request for an appeal on the release was rejected. Justice Hanan Melcer leveled severe criticism against the conduct of the police concerning the representation of the detainee and his interrogation.
“Contrary to the law which determines that the interrogation of people with mental disabilities be conducted by a specially trained interrogator, the police feign innocence and say that there is absolutely no problem with the youth despite the documents and reports which we presented to them,” said Wertzberger. “The police knowingly ignored the youth’s mental disability and with great effort, extracted a confession. The likelihood that this is a false and incriminating confession, not based on facts, is very serious. An indication that there are doubts in this case is that despite the request by the Attorney General’s office and the police, a Supreme Court Justice ruled in an emergency deliberation held just before Shabbat in the courthouse, to immediately release the youth.”

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