The Justice Ministry’s Police Internal Investigations Department on Sunday indicted an officer on suspicion of beating protesters at demonstration against the conscription of ultra-Orthodox men.
The indictment filed at the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court against the officer from the capital’s Lev Habira station concerned two separate demonstrations last year, the Justice Ministry said in a statement. At the time there were regular — and often violent — demonstrations in Jerusalem and other cities by ultra-Orthodox protesters against the draft.
In the first case, on January 17, the alleged victim of the assault was at a demonstration in the Kikar Shabbat area of the capital when another protester shouted a racial slur at an Ethiopian police officer who was helping disperse the protesters. According to the indictment, the defendant apparently thought the victim had called out the insult and, after dragging him aside, hit him twice and then said, “Understand?”
Amateur video of the altercation was shared on social media.
מח"ש הגישה היום כתב אישום נגד קצין בדרגת רפ"ק במשטרת ירושלים שמואשם בתקיפה. במהלך הפגנות החרדים לקח הקצין מפגין לפינה צידית ושם היכה אותו פעמיים. במקרה אחר המופיע בכתב האישום, הוא בעט במספר מפגינים בזמן ששכבו שרועים על הכביש. pic.twitter.com/ytIPOa2IIA
— yishai porat (@yishaiporat) February 11, 2018
In the second case, on September 17, also at Kikar Shabbat, there was a protest against the arrest of an ultra-Orthodox draft dodger, during which demonstrators blocked traffic and pelted police officers with stones, bottles, and other objects.
The defendant, who was injured in the clashes, was deployed with other police to clear the protesters. According to the indictment, there were three instances in which he kicked or kneed protesters who were being dragged from the street by other officers.
On both occasions, the officer stands accused of an unlawful attack.
Itamar Ben-Gvir, the attorney representing one of the Haredi victims who filed the original complaint against the officer, referred to the indictment as a “first step, but not enough,” in a Sunday statement.
Ben-Gvir called for the officer’s removal from the police force altogether, asserting that the employment of violence by law enforcement officials against innocent civilians should not be tolerated.
The issue of ultra-Orthodox enlistment has been a controversial one in Israel, with more-extreme members of the Haredi community carrying out weekly, and sometimes daily, protests against the draft.
It revolves around a decades-old debate as to whether young ultra-Orthodox men studying in yeshivas, or seminaries, should be called up for compulsory military service, like the rest of Israel’s Jewish population. After reaching the age of 18, men must serve for 32 months and women for 24.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.
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