Court orders release of suspect in torching of Ben Gurion statue to house arrest

Tel Aviv judge gives police 24 hours to appeal, criticizes their handling of probe into incident, says they were influenced by media attention

A statue depicting Israel's first prime minister David Ben-Gurion that was set on fire on the beach in Tel Aviv, September 16, 2023 (Flash90)
A statue depicting Israel's first prime minister David Ben-Gurion that was set on fire on the beach in Tel Aviv, September 16, 2023 (Flash90)

The Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court on Thursday ordered the release to house arrest of the suspect in the torching of the iconic statue of Israel’s first prime minister David Ben-Gurion.

The court placed a 24-hour stay in the decision to allow the police force to submit an appeal, which it is expected to do.

Mohammed Zeid, 34, will have to post an NIS 2,500 ($655) bail in order to be released to his family’s home in Umm al-Fahm. He has been living on the street as of late.

In issuing his decision, Judge Hirschel Doron criticized the police’s handling of the investigation, saying they were “not using the previous extensions of the suspect’s remand to effectively advance the probe and it seems that they are now requesting another extension mainly because of the media attention surrounding this case.”

The statue torched on Saturday is located on Tel Aviv’s Frishman Beach and is a recreation of a famous image by photographer Paul Goldman, who captured the former premier performing a headstand on the beach in 1957.

CCTV footage showed the suspect approaching the statue at around 5:25 a.m.

A statue of David Ben Gurion doing a headstand near his home on the beach in Tel Aviv. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

The statue was initially cordoned off by municipal workers before it was removed from the scene by a bulldozer.

Zeid was arrested several hours later.

The motive behind the arson attack was unclear, but some Hebrew media reports said the suspect suffers from mental health issues.

Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai pledged to repair the statue as soon as possible.

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