Man says he was beaten by police and jailed for four days for not wearing mask
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Man says he was beaten by police and jailed for four days for not wearing mask

David Biton tells Knesset panel that officers ‘brutally’ assaulted him, did not immediately provide medical treatment; police spokesperson says ‘bad incident’ being investigated

David Biton, who was beaten by police officers arresting him for not wearing a mask, testifies before the Knesset State Control Committee on July 8, 2020. (Youtube screenshot)
David Biton, who was beaten by police officers arresting him for not wearing a mask, testifies before the Knesset State Control Committee on July 8, 2020. (Youtube screenshot)

An Israeli man told lawmakers on Wednesday that he was severely beaten by police and detained for four days for not wearing a face mask.

Addressing the Knesset’s State Control Committee via video conference, David Biton, a 24-year old from the central city of Holon, said that he was physically assaulted despite cooperating with police officers and presenting his identification when asked.

“They just wanted to brutally hit me,” he said, according to the Ynet news site. Biton described the beating as “unparalleled cruelty,” the report said.

During the incident, which was caught on video, officers repeatedly punched and tased Biton as he cried out. He required hospital treatment for cuts and bruises sustained during the incident.

Police said Biton refused to identify himself and resisted arrest. In the video, he appears to try to remove his identity card from his pocket before officers wrestle him to the ground.

“I did not receive medical treatment. I vomited several times,” he told lawmakers. He said he had “twitched on the ground for 40 minutes” before paramedics arrived.

“They just wanted to beat me brutally. They decided to torture me and I don’t know why,” he continued. “They said that I attacked a cop. I have no criminal record. All this for not wearing a mask.”

Biton left police custody on Monday after the Tel Aviv District Court ordered his release.

A police spokesman told Channel 12 that “this is a bad incident” and is currently being investigated.

The police announced on Sunday a plan to step up enforcement of social distancing guidelines meant to curb the spread of the coronavirus, with thousands of officers drafted into a special task force to carry out inspections.

On Monday, police came under fire after a video emerged showing officers in Jerusalem stopping a young ultra-Orthodox girl, bringing her to tears, for failing to wear a face mask properly.

The footage prompted complaints from ultra-Orthodox lawmakers who said that police were targeting their community with strict enforcement of virus guidelines in public spaces.

However, police said in a statement that the claims made around the video are false and that the cops had simply told the girl to fix her mask and sent her on her way.

The incident was the latest in a series of headline-making cases where police have been castigated for heavy-handed enforcement of the requirement to wear masks in public.

Public Security Minister Amir Ohana, who is in charge of the police, later published an open letter calling on officers to show discretion and urging the public to understand that officers are just doing a duty that was thrust upon them.

While not all policemen are violent, “unfortunately, time and time again, intolerable things are done,” said United Torah Judaism MK Yaakov Asher on Wednesday.

“If the police do not deal with this” there will be “more such incidents,” Asher said.

The last few weeks have seen the reversal of many of the gains made in Israel in the fight against the coronavirus in recent months. New daily virus cases, which had dropped to low double digits through most of May, have soared to over a thousand a day, and the number of active cases has reached an all-time high.

On Tuesday, there were 1,348 new infections, the Health Ministry said, which appeared to be the highest single day total since the outbreak began.

The Health Ministry said Wednesday night that there were 1,014 new infections in Israel since midnight Tuesday, bringing the total number of cases since the start of the pandemic to 33,557.

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