Cop accused of breaking detained activist’s knee gives investigators his account

Police deny physically assaulting Arab Israeli rights campaigner Jafar Farah after his arrest during a pro-Gaza demonstration in Haifa

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Arab Israeli NGO worker Jafar Farah, who alleges a police officer broke his knee after he was arrested. (Screen capture: Twitter)
Arab Israeli NGO worker Jafar Farah, who alleges a police officer broke his knee after he was arrested. (Screen capture: Twitter)

The police officer accused of breaking the knee of a detained Arab Israeli rights activist gave his testimony Tuesday to investigators probing the incident.

The officer, who has not been named, was questioned under caution by the Justice Ministry’s Police Internal Investigations Department (PIID) regarding the events surrounding the alleged assault of Jafar Farah, director of the NGO Mossawa, the Advocacy Center for Arab Citizens in Israel.

Farah was arrested with 20 other people during a Gaza Strip solidarity rally over the weekend in Haifa, which has since sparked accusations of police violence against protesters. He claimed the police officer kicked his leg, shattering his knee, while he was held in a detention facility on Friday night.

The officer denied he used any physical force against Farah. Other police officers who were with Farah while he was in police custody also gave testimony Tuesday, maintaining that the activist was not injured by the accused officer, and suggesting instead that he hurt his leg during the scuffles at the demonstration, Haaretz reported.

Footage of his arrest on Friday shows Farah being led away in handcuffs and walking on his own.

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, who is responsible for the Israel Police, said that “we trust PIID will complete its investigation swiftly in a professional manner, and will dispel the cloud hanging over the incident.”

Police Chief Roni Alsheich, who was with Erdan at a force ceremony in Tirat Carmel, said on Tuesday that “every lawbreaker has claims against the police officers, and the claims need to be checked.”

“You must distinguish between the demonstration, which was violent and not legitimate — and there are those in the Arab community who are embarrassed by what was going on there — and the fact that the police need to uphold the law. Every time there is a claim that perhaps a transgression was committed, we bring PIID into the picture.”

Alsheich said he has yet to receive information from the PIID that justified further action.

Channel 10 reported that at least 10 of those who were arrested at the demonstration were expected to file complaints against police.

Earlier Tuesday, the European Union called for an inquiry into Farah’s case. The EU involvement came after Joint (Arab) List party MK Youssef Jabareen met Monday evening with EU Ambassador to Israel Emanuele Giaufret to draw his attention to the matter, Hadashot news reported.

Arab-Israeli NGO worker Jafar Farah arrested by police at a Haifa demonstration against Israel’s conduct in Gaza on May 18, 2018. (Screen capture/Twitter)

In a statement, the EU said it was important “to conduct a swift investigation into circumstances surrounding events last week in Haifa which appeared to result in serious injury of Jafar Farah.”

Erdan responded to the EU demand by saying the bloc shouldn’t “get involved in internal Israeli matters. Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East, doesn’t need any moral warning calls from a biased and obsessive entity like the European Union.”

On Sunday, the PIID said it was opening a preliminary investigation into police conduct, including Farah’s injury. Investigators from the department, which is independent of the police, were to probe police for relevant material, and then decide whether to open a formal investigation into the incident.

Twenty-one people were arrested when the demonstration was dispersed Friday. On Monday a Haifa Magistrate’s Court judge ordered all of those still held by police to be released.

Police had said that all of the arrests were “carried out lawfully and in accordance with procedures.” They said the protests had included stone throwing at officers, property damage, attempts to block roads and the disturbing of public order.

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