Elderly ex-pilot questioned for posting pic of cop who threw stun grenade into crowd

Suspect accused of threatening police officer by putting photo on social media; university professor appears in court after arrest at demonstration in Jerusalem

Israel Police officer Meir Suissa, right, prepares a stun grenade moments before he hurled it into a crowd of demonstrators during a mass protest in Tel Aviv, March 1, 2023. (Video screenshot; Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
Israel Police officer Meir Suissa, right, prepares a stun grenade moments before he hurled it into a crowd of demonstrators during a mass protest in Tel Aviv, March 1, 2023. (Video screenshot; Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

An ex-Israel Air Force combat pilot was questioned under caution on Sunday on suspicion of “threatening” a police officer because he posted the officer’s photo on social media, Hebrew media reported.

The former pilot, said to be in his 70s and who fought in the 1973 Yom Kippur war and the so-called War of Attrition in the years preceding it, was summoned by police last week after publishing the picture of Superintendent Meir Swissa during an incident when the officer threw a stun grenade into a crowd of demonstrators in Tel Aviv.

The rally was organized as part of a “day of disruption” across the country by those protesting the government’s plan to radically overhaul the judiciary by dramatically reducing its power to hold in check laws passed by the Knesset, and also control the panel that selects justices.

At the demonstration last Wednesday, a large crowd blocked a major junction in Tel Aviv, causing traffic disruptions, as police tried to disperse the protesters using stun grenades and a water cannon.

In a post that included an apparent screenshot of Swissa, the ex-pilot, who was not identified in reports, wrote “Meir Swissa throwing a stun grenade in the crowd. Crazy!”

The former pilot was issued with a summons last week.

Meanwhile, the Police Internal Investigations Department has opened in probe into Swissa’s actions to determine if the officer violated regulations. In a widely shared video, Swissa was seen lobbing the grenade into the demonstrating crowd.

Attorney Gabi Laski, representing the former pilot, said in a statement” “Instead of arresting criminals, they are arresting normative people who didn’t break the law and their only crime was that they went out to fight for democracy.”

In another incident related to the anti-government rallies, Prof. Amit Daniely, a computer science professor at Hebrew University, was arrested by Border Police at a Saturday night demonstration in Jerusalem on suspicion of assaulting a police officer, according to police. But in a short video clip, Daniely can be seen standing among a crowd of protesters who were shouting at police, before one officer leads a number of others into the group and straight to Daniely. The police officers then abruptly round on the professor and haul him off to a patrol vehicle.

Daniely told Channel 12 that he rejects as “a total lie” police claims that he hit an officer.

“I don’t understand why they arrested me,” he said, arguing that he was randomly pulled from the crowd.

Daniely said that although he has participated in several demonstrations, this was the first time he was arrested.

On Sunday, dozens of students and members of the Hebrew University faculty arrived at the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court in support of Daniely, who was brought for a remand hearing while in leg shackles.

Israel Police said in a statement that at the end of the official demonstration, a group of protesters “disturbed the peace and assaulted officers,” as a result of which four suspects were arrested and taken for questioning.

“The Israel Police will continue to allow the freedom of protest within the limits of the law and will work for the security of the participants, but will not allow any disorder and violence in general and towards police officers in particular, and will take a hard hand in these cases,” the police statement read.

Walla reported that Daniely was arrested for allegedly disturbing the peace and obstructing an officer in the line of duty, according to the official charge. Police asked the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court to extend his remand by five days and that he be given a restraining order barring him from Jerusalem’s Hanasi Street, where the incident happened, for 15 days.

Israelis protest against the government’s planned overhaul to the legal system, outside the president’s residence in Jerusalem, on March 4, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

A police representative told the court that demonstrators had ignored police orders that they keep to the sidewalk and were instead marching in the road. The representative said that during the dispersal of the demonstration, Daniely did not listen to police orders, moved a police barrier, clashed with officers, sat in the road, and refused to move.

Police said Daniely remained silent while questioned. They told the court that they had wanted to release Daniely under restrictions but he insisted on facing the magistrate.

According to the report, the court rejected the police demand to extend his remand but granted the restraining order. However, Danieli remained in custody as police filed a petition with the district court asking that it overturn the lower court’s decision. Another person who was arrested in the incident was released under restrictions, Walla said.

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