Journalist interrogated in Sandak case still fighting for justice

The tweet on Gruner’s Twitter account; Free use

Monday, August 9, 2021, 13:30 Months after HaKol HaYehudi journalist Elhanan Gruner was interrogated by the police, against regulations, and his Twitter account was locked based on a claim that he had violated a gag order, the order has been canceled. Following a petition to the High Court of Justice filed by Honenu Attorney Menashe Yado, who is representing Gruner, it became apparent that the gag order was issued after the Jerusalem Magistrates Court was misled in order to prevent criticism of the Central Unit of Yehuda and Shomron Police over the investigation of the death of Ahuvia Sandak, z”l. The gag order was on the name of an investigator from the Yehuda and Shomron Police, Yossi Ovadia.
Gruner was interrogated following a tweet he posted on 22/12/20, after the incident in which Sandak 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 when asked about the incident. 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.”

The video clip from the scene of the incident; Video credit: Free use

Although Gruner posted the tweet five days before the gag order on Ovadia’s name was issued, and despite the fact that Gruner is a journalist and a card-carrying member of the Israeli Government Press Office, at the request of the Attorney General’s office, Twitter locked his account until the above-mentioned tweet was removed. Gruner was interrogated by the police, in violation of the regulations of interrogating journalists, and his fingerprints were taken.
After Gruner was interrogated by the police, Yado asked relevant authorities for the gag order, but inexplicably all of them refused. The gag order was transferred to Yado only after the petition was filed with the High Court of Justice and then it became apparent that it had been issued by misleading the court: The order was requested on the basis of a law which protects the confidentiality of names of criminal suspects. However the police investigator, Yossi Ovadia, over whom the order was issued, was not suspected of killing Ahuvia Sandak, but rather arrived on the scene after the car-ramming.
In light of this situation, Yado filed a petition with the Jerusalem Magistrates Court demanding that the order be voided, because the order which was issued based on misleading the court led to a criminal investigation of Gruner, and the case against him is still open.
However, Judge Eliad Weinshall decided to cancel the order effective from the day of the request on, and did not consider voiding it. Ovadia’s attorney agreed to the cancellation of the order, writing that he verified that Ovadia was not a suspect in the case. The Police Investigation Unit stated that they had never requested confidentiality for Ovadia’s name. Judge Weinshall’s justification for canceling, not voiding the order was that, “I do not know of a source of authorization for ordering [such a void]”
HaKol HaYehudi journalist Elhanan Gruner: “Apparently the investigative reports we publicized about the Central Unit of Yehuda and Shomron were not happily received by the police. But the attempts by the police to shut us up and to prevent criticism about the car-ramming which led to the death of Ahuvia Sandak, z”l, did not succeed. Now it is clear as day that there is illegal persecution of us, but illegal interrogations will not silence us.”
Honenu Attorney Menashe Yado, who petitioned the Jerusalem District Court to void the gag order: “We are pleased that we succeeded in revealing what we already knew from the start, that the gag order was illegal. The police issued it by clearly misleading the court.
“This order violated journalist Elhanan Gruner’s freedom of expression and freedom to conduct a business. The same police who misled the court interrogated Gruner for the crime of daring to publicize a tweet that was contradictory to the fraudulent order.”
Yado welcomed the decision, but had a reservation: “We are pleased that Judge Weinshall canceled the order. Nevertheless, it is puzzling that the cancellation is only from now on, and the gag order has not been voided. How can a judge leave an order standing when it is obvious and clear it was issued based on deception? This decision is inexplicable, illogical, unjust, and erroneous from a judicial standpoint.
“We are absolutely certain that the Jerusalem District Court will complete the job and void this fraudulent order. Later it will be impossible to leave the criminal investigation of Gruner standing, and that will also be canceled. The case will be closed as it should be closed, with a verdict of not guilty.
“The judicial system must be just, and not operate on the basis of lies and aggression. That includes all of the authorities involved, whether they were among those who actively lied or among those who gave validity to the lie.”
After Gruner was locked out of his Twitter account and interrogated, the Union of Journalists in Israel leveled strong criticism at the police and the Attorney General’s office. The Union also asked to be added as a friend of the court to the petition filed by Honenu to the High Court of Justice.
Following the investigation that violated their own regulations, the police stated that, “Conclusions will be drawn and the guidelines relevant to investigating journalists will be clarified.”

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