Deeming the police’s case against them to be “weak,” a Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court judge released to house arrest six Palestinians who were arrested Tuesday for allegedly witnessing a fatal stabbing attack in the Old City and doing nothing to intervene.
Explaining his decision, Judge Eitan Cohen accepted the testimony of the defendants, who claimed that they did not manage to process what was happening in the 34 seconds between the stabbing of Adiel Kolman on Sunday and the police arrival at the scene.
Two other Palestinians detained on the same grounds were released earlier on Tuesday.
Cohen noted the suspects’ account that they initially believed what had been unfolding was a fight, and that only after hearing the gunshots of the police officer that killed the assailant did they realize that the incident had been a terror attack.
“It seems that it is difficult to unequivocally state that they intentionally did not intervene in the matter,” the judge said, in rejecting the police’s request to extend the suspects’ remand for five days.
The arrests of the Palestinians followed the police’s discovery of footage of the incident filmed by one of the cameras on Hagai street in the Muslim Quarter.
Police detained the eight bystanders, aged 15 to 67, on suspicion that they “saw what was going on and did not act to prevent or minimize the injury to the murdered civilian.” Failing to prevent a crime is itself a misdemeanor, according to Israeli law.
Dismissing the main argument of the Palestinians’ two attorneys, a representative for the police told the court Tuesday that “if someone wanted to, then in a half second they would intervene. Suddenly everyone is busy and has no time? They did not do the minimum to prevent the crime.”
In response, Muhammad Mahmoud, one of the attorneys for the bystanders, said authorities were using the detention of the Palestinians “as revenge for people who did nothing wrong.”
“No one is justifying the act, but to come and say that people standing for 34 seconds and not doing anything is a crime?” said Mahmoud.
Adiel Kolman, 32, a father of four, died of his wounds several hours after he was stabbed by 28-year-old Abd al-Rahman Bani Fadel from Aqraba, near the West Bank city of Nablus. Fadel was shot dead at the scene by police.
Kolman was buried Monday in the central West Bank settlement of Kochav Hashachar, where he lived.
Once common in the Old City, stabbing attacks have waned in recent months. However, tensions have been on the rise around Jerusalem since US President Donald Trump recognized the city as Israel’s capital in December. This month, he also announced that the US Embassy would be moving from its current location in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem on May 14.
Sue Surkes contributed to this report.