Hundreds protest in Petah Tikva after claims of police brutality

Leaders of Democratic Camp demand probe into authorities’ conduct during Friday demonstrations near AG’s home; activists say elderly people beaten

Israeli attend a protest against corruption of near the home of Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit in Petah Tikva, August 17, 2019. (Roy Alima/Flash90)
Israeli attend a protest against corruption of near the home of Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit in Petah Tikva, August 17, 2019. (Roy Alima/Flash90)

Hundreds of people demonstrated in Petah Tikva Saturday as activists, as well as leaders of the left-wing Democratic Camp party, demanded an investigation of alleged police brutality toward protesters a day earlier, among them several elderly people.

Police said on Friday that they arrested four people and detained three more during anti-corruption protests near the home of Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit. Officials said demonstrators had defied new guidelines which forbid protests along Mandelblit’s route to and from his neighborhood synagogue.

But activists said the number of arrests and their circumstances were different than what police had said. They claimed several people were on their way to the home of another activist in Petah Tikva, not as part of a protest but for a party to celebrate the Jewish holiday of Tu B’Av. Activists said policemen assaulted them, manhandling and beating them. They said several of the activists beaten were elderly.

Following the incident dozens of people staged a protest outside the city’s police station. Activists said police arrested several more during the demonstration while treating them aggressively.

Watch a video of officers breaking up the protest outside the Petah Tikva police station

מעצרים בפתח תקווה של מפגינים שהתיישבו על הכביש בכניסה למשטרת פ'ת, בעקבות מעצר מוקדם יותר של חבריהם בשכונתו של היועמ'ש מנדלבליט, כולל עו'ד סיגלית קסלר ממובילות המחאה שנעצרה בכניסה לתחנה, 16-8-2019

Posted by Rafi Michaeli on Friday, August 16, 2019

It was not immediately clear how many people remained under arrest on Saturday night.

Former prime minister Ehud Barak of the Democratic Camp urged Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan to immediately secure the release of those arrested and ensure a probe of the incident.

“Elderly people were beaten and arrested in what appears to be a disproportionate use of force,” he said. “A lawyer was handcuffed, the detainees were prevented from seeing a lawyer. Since when has the sanctity of ‘the walking path’ of the attorney general been more important than the basic rights of citizens?”

Democratic Camp party leader Nitzan Horowitz called the incident “corruption that is out of control.”

Police, he said, “are taking people walking down the street, arresting and detaining them for investigation simply because they suspect they plan to demonstrate.” He called police behavior “cowardice… This does not happen in any normal democracy.”

Activists have petitioned the High Court of Justice against the new police directives issued this week, which place stringent limits on areas in which rallies can be held and forbid the use of voice amplification equipment. The new rules also limit the hours during which protests can be held.

Anti-corruption activists have been holding regular protests near Mandelblit’s home for years, demanding he indict Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the corruption cases into his affairs.

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit attends a ceremony for new Justice Minister Amir Ohana at the Justice Ministry in Jerusalem on June 23, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Recently protests have increased in frequency from weekly affairs to several times a week. Protests are usually attended by no more than several dozen people.

Mandelblit has already announced his intention to indict Netanyahu fraud and breach of trust in the three cases and with bribery in one of them, pending a hearing.

The hearing has been set for October 2-3, delayed from its original date of July 10 at the request of the prime minister’s defense team.

Netanyahu denies any wrongdoing.

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