Judge assails police in hearing on release of suspects in Palestinian’s death

Defense attorneys storm out of session in protest of secret Shin Bet footage, which Palestinians claim shows settlers deep inside village

Elisha Yered, left, seen at the Jerusalem District Court after being released to house arrest on August 9, 2023. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)
Elisha Yered, left, seen at the Jerusalem District Court after being released to house arrest on August 9, 2023. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

A court hearing over an appeal by police against the release of two Israeli suspects in the killing of a Palestinian man became heated on Wednesday evening, with defense lawyers at one point storming out of the room and new evidence supposedly coming to light.

Ultimately, the Jerusalem District Court accepted a police appeal against the release of Yehiel Indore — who is hospitalized under police guard — but approved the release of Elisha Yered to house arrest. The Supreme Court had earlier frozen a lower court’s orders to release both suspects, sending the decision to the district court, which weighed the police appeal. Yered was released late Wednesday evening, while Indore’s remand was extended until at least Friday.

But prosecutors filed yet another appeal against Yered’s release on Thursday, claiming that the settler “endangers public order,” and that his release to house arrest “could cause real damage to the completion of the investigation.”

The motion was dismissed later Thursday by the Supreme Court.

In a clash Friday night in the Palestinian village of Burqa, 19-year-old Qusai Jamal Matan was allegedly shot dead by Indore, who was arrested a day later. Yered was arrested on suspicion of being involved and obstructing the police investigation.

Five Palestinians — all members of one family — were also arrested over their involvement in the clash, in which Indore was wounded. One was later released.

The settlers claim they acted in self-defense as they were being pelted with rocks thrown by Palestinians, but investigators have cast doubt on their version of events.

Elisha Yered (center), a suspect in the death of 19-year-old Palestinian Qusai Jamal Maatan in the West Bank village of Burqa on August 4, arrives for a hearing at the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court, August 5, 2023. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

The hearing Wednesday evening was marked by arguments and delays as, in an unusual move, the court waited to hear from a Shin Bet official to weigh in on the police appeal.

According to the right-wing legal aid group Honenu, which is representing Indore and Yered, a Shin Bet official requested permission to show presiding Jerusalem District Court Judge Tamar Bar-Asher materials linked to the case in her chambers, away from attorneys and spectators.

Honenu officials said they protested the move and its attorneys in the case, Nati Rom and Adi Kedar, later stormed out of the courtroom “in protest of the judge’s violation of the rules of the hearing,” they said in a statement.

According to the Ynet news site, the Shin Bet official showed Bar-Asher purported “new intelligence evidence” in the case. But the judge responded by criticizing the conduct of the police and Shin Bet in the investigation, questioning why such evidence was not presented earlier.

“We’re in our fourth hearing in the past 24 hours, and we’re constantly receiving things that should have been presented in an orderly manner for the hearing,” the judge was quoted by the news site as saying in the open-door hearing.

Prosecutors reportedly shot back that it was not fair criticism amid an ongoing, developing investigation: “There is a critique that every time new information arises it’s not okay.”

Bar-Asher told the court that while the Shin Bet had revealed to her a “short video,” it did not play a role in her decision to order Yered released to house arrest: “The evidence against Elisha Yered has not been strengthened. The information is interesting but not connected to the incident.”

Meanwhile, in a hearing Thursday at the Ofer military court over the remand of four of the Palestinian suspects arrested in the same deadly clash, the suspects’ lawyer claimed to have seen the video in question.

According to Channel 12 news, attorney Ismail Tawil said that the video showed a group of 40 or 50 settlers entering at least two kilometers inside the Burqa village — contrary to earlier claims that the clash took place on the outskirts of the town. One of the suspects reportedly told the court that the settlers “attacked elders who were in their houses with tear gas and were carrying M16 rifles and pistols.”

Palestinians carry the body of 19-year-old Palestinian Qusai Jamal Maatan, who was killed during clashes with Israeli settlers, in the West Bank village of Burqa, August 5, 2023. (Flash90)

In contrast, the IDF said Saturday that according to witnesses, clashes erupted adjacent to Burqa after settlers from a nearby outpost herded sheep in the area. Palestinians from the town approached the settlers to push them out from their lands, when a verbal confrontation erupted. At one point, both sides began hurling stones at each other and Palestinians also launched fireworks.

“During the confrontation, Israeli civilians fired toward the Palestinians. As a result of the confrontation, a Palestinian was killed, four others were injured, and a Palestinian vehicle was found burnt,” the IDF said in a statement.

Following his release Wednesday evening, Yered will be held under house arrest at his uncle’s home. He is prohibited from holding phone conversations and is permitted to leave the premises only to attend police questioning or court hearings.

Indore is under police guard in a Jerusalem hospital, where he is being treated for a serious head injury he sustained when a Palestinian threw a rock at him in the clash. The district court ruled Tuesday that family members be allowed to visit him at the hospital, which they were previously barred from doing due to his arrest — although two coalition MKs were allowed to do so, sparking criticism.

Former police officials have warned that National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir — a longtime radical and settlement activist with a history of incitement — is attempting to intervene in the investigation, after he said Indore should be awarded a medal of honor and demanded police “expedite the investigation.”

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