Susiya defendants exonerated after a 3 year trial

Wednesday, December 9, 2015, 8:16 On Tuesday, December 8, Jerusalem Magistrate Court Judge Hagit Mak-Kalmanovitch exonerated three out of the four defendants suspected of assaulting policemen who were disguised as Arabs in October 2012 near Havat Har Sinai in Susiya. She ruled that two of them had not committed any violation. The third, who was thought to have fled the scene, was exonerated after no connection between him and the incident was proven. The fourth defendant was convicted of assault based on video footage of him kicking one of the above-mentioned policemen.
In her verdict Judge Mak-Kalmanovitch leveled severe criticism against the Yehuda and Shomron District Police and ruled that their actions had been a provocation liable to cost human lives. See here and here for details of the detention and the detainees’ release to house arrest.
According to the indictment, during the Succot holiday of 2012, on the eve of the Simhat Torah holiday (October 7), the four defendants noticed the presence of Arabs near Havat Har Sinai, a site known as a target for terror attacks, and hurried to drive them out. Two of the defendants assaulted the Arabs who were actually policemen disguised as Arabs, and the other two defendants, one of whom filmed the incident, stood on a nearby path. Police forces then ambushed and detained three of the defendants. The other defendant fled the scene and was detained later. All four defendants were held in remand for approximately one week. After their release they were placed under house arrest and other restrictive conditions for months and in some cases years.
The defendants were represented by Honenu Attorneys Aharon Roza and Adi Kedar and a public defender, Attorney Yitzhak Bam. The attorneys announced that they will study the verdict and consider suing the police for false detention.
Judge Mak-Kalmanovitch leveled severe criticism against the police in her verdict: “The evidence indicates that the staged incident was indeed a provocation under unusual circumstances.”
“The policemen situated themselves in a place relatively close to the farm [Havat Har Sinai] and the community [Susiya]. They stayed idle for an extended period of time in a place which does not have any crops to cultivate and did not have a flock to graze. The policemen did not move about in the site, but rather remained there without any visible reason for doing so. Under the circumstances these actions raise definite suspicions, especially in light of the terror incidents which have occurred in the area.”
Judge Mak-Kalmanovitch also noted that the policemen “tried to engage” the defendants. The verdict continues: “It is possible to determine that their very presence without a reason on uncultivated, rocky ground caught the defendants by surprise, and taking into consideration the characteristics of the area, also caused suspicion and fear.
“It is impossible not to wonder at the planning of the operation which endangered the safety and even the lives of the policemen,” wrote the judge in her verdict. “Any slight mishap, unplanned development, or misunderstanding between those involved [in the incident] could have caused an escalation, and the presence of weapons in the hands of the assailants, was liable to compromise the safety of the policemen and everyone involved… The impression left is that the planning of the operation was fundamentally defective.”
The judge added that, “There is substance to the claims made by the defendants relating to the improper conduct of the policemen, who caused a feeling of danger among the defendants and their friends, although the situation did not justify assaulting the policemen as was done.” The judge did not accept the pleas of abuse of process and one of the defendants was convicted, however she ruled that the matter should be raised again when the convicted defendant is sentenced.
An IDF lookout who was on duty at the time of the incident testified at the trial that she had received orders not to report on the arrival of the policemen disguised as Arabs to the site. Susiya’s head of security testified that the presence of Arabs at the site was unusual and dangerous and that the site is close to the site where Ya’ir Har Sinai, Hy”d, was murdered by Arabs who had been present in that area several hours prior to Har Sinai’s murder.
The commander responsible for the lookout shift verified in her testimony that she had received an order not to report to Susiya’s head of security on the approach of suspicious figures to the site, because that would jeopardize the success of the operation. The head of security himself tried several times to summon IDF forces to the site but was answered with “the incident is as it should be”.
Judge Hagit Mak-Kalmanovitch mentioned that some of the witnesses for the prosecution claimed that the operation with the policeman disguised as Arabs was carried out in light of previous incidents in the area, however she wrote that “No data or evidence was brought in relation to this matter”.
It should be noted that after the incident, Yitzhak Aharonovitch, then the Internal Security Minister, gave guidelines according to which the police would not use policemen disguised as Arabs against Jewish residents of Yehuda and Shomron, however since then there have been several similar incidents in Bat Ayin, Givat Ronen and in Kochav HaShahar. In the April 2015 Kochav HaShahar incident five residents were detained. See here for details of Honenu’s representation of the detainees.
Honenu Attorney Aharon Roza: “I welcome the exoneration of my client, who was accused of acts which he did not carry out. When the verdict was given, severe criticism was leveled against the operation carried out by the Israeli Police, the very fact that it was carried out, the manner in which it was carried out and also the site chosen in which to stage it.”
Honenu Attorney Adi Kedar: “The court exonerated the defendants and leveled criticism which is in effect a severe indictment of the Israeli Police and of the provocation they initiated which caused danger to the police and the residents of the area. I believe that in light of this verdict there will be demands on the police and the Attorney General’s office to offer explanations and conclusions.”
Yitzhak Bam, who served as the public defender for one of the defendants: “The exoneration is a small consolation for the defendants who spent many days in remand and then were placed under house arrest and other restrictions for months. Nonetheless, we are pleased that the court accepted our criticism of the dubious operation carried out by the police against the residents of Susiya. It is sad to see the police, with the authorization of the Attorney General’s office, resort to such a ruse against Jews. Whoever authorized the operation and endangered both the policemen and the residents must come to the necessary conclusions.”

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