Suspects arrested in bilingual school torching

Suspects arrested in bilingual school torching

Accused barred from speaking with lawyers eight days after arson and tagging of Jerusalem school with anti-Arab graffiti

Suspected arsonists set fire to a bilingual Jewish-Arabic school in Jerusalem on November 29, 2014. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Suspected arsonists set fire to a bilingual Jewish-Arabic school in Jerusalem on November 29, 2014. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Police have arrested several suspects in the November arson of a Jewish-Arab bilingual school in Jerusalem, officials said Sunday, over a week after the suspected racially motivated attack.

The Petah Tikva Magistrate’s Court lifted a gag order on Sunday, allowing the media to report that suspects had been apprehended in the November 29 arson of the Max Rayne Hand in Hand School.

It was not immediately clear how many suspects had been arrested. Their names have not been released.

Two first-grade classrooms and a playground were set on fire during the nighttime attack on the school. Vandals also spray-painted messages that read “There is no coexistence with cancer”; “Death to the Arabs”; and “Kahane was right,” a reference to Meir Kahane, a former fringe MK and Jewish ultra-nationalist who advocated discriminatory policies toward Israel’s Arab minority.

The attack drew condemnation from politicians across the spectrum. A large protest was held outside the school the following morning by parents and anti-racism activists.

The court extended the remand of four of the suspects until Thursday, denying the police’s initial request for an eight-day extension.

According to a report published Sunday by Ynet, the suspects’ attorney, Itamar Ben Gvir, lashed out at the court for preventing the suspects from meeting with him as well as with a second attorney representing them, Avichai Hajbi.

“They are not allowing the suspects to meet with me and with another lawyer who represents them. The Shin Bet is violating their basic rights,” asserted Ben Gvir, a far-right activist.

“Where is the Association for Civil Rights in Israel?” he added.

The Jerusalem District Court will consider a petition on Monday that permits the suspects to meet with their lawyers.

The attack was widely condemned by politicians and public figures and was seen as emblematic of increasing discrimination in Israeli society and souring relations between Jews and Arabs.

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat condemned the attack on the school last month, saying City Hall won’t allow “pyromaniacs and rioters” to take the law into their own hands and disrupt the pace of life in the city.

“We’ll continue to denounce the radicals and do all that’s necessary to return quiet to Jerusalem,” he said.

The five Hand in Hand schools across the country educate over 1,000 students and aim to “create a strong, inclusive, shared society in Israel” through bilingual education in Hebrew and Arabic, and with integrated classes.

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