ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 148

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Overhaul supporter says police beat him after arrest; police say he assaulted officer

Man says he suffered a broken nose at the hands of officers after he was detained in van for taking sign from anti-overhaul protesters; force says he resisted lawful arrest

Illustrative: Anti-overhaul protesters in Rehovot on May 6, 2023 (Gilad Furst via national protest leadership)
Illustrative: Anti-overhaul protesters in Rehovot on May 6, 2023 (Gilad Furst via national protest leadership)

A pro-government demonstrator has claimed Israel Police officers beat him in the back of a police van after he was arrested during a clash with protesters against the planned judicial overhaul, the Haaretz newspaper reported Sunday.

Yitzhak Yosef De Bresser, 22, suffered a broken nose in the struggle with officers last Thursday at the Bilu Junction near Rehovot, the report said.

He now intends to file a complaint with the Police Internal Investigations Department.

Police said in a statement that De Bresser had resisted arrest and assaulted officers.

While De Bresser admitted that he fought back against officers, he said it was in response to an unwarranted assault and that he was injured even after he had been handcuffed.

The incident took place during a day of rallies across the country Thursday against the judicial overhaul.

A rally against the government’s contentious plans was held in Rehovot and De Bresser and some companions held a spontaneous counterprotest in favor of the legislation.

Police tried to keep the two sides apart but at some point, scuffles developed. Anti-government protesters who were at the rally said that De Bresser and others spat at them — De Bresser denied the claim, but said he grabbed a sign from one of the anti-overhaul protesters after they seized a sign from his group.

Police then detained De Bresser and one of his companions.

“We didn’t object to the detention, it even made sense to me,” he told Haaretz.

According to De Bresser, police took away his companion’s cellphone without offering an explanation.

“That’s how I realized that we wouldn’t just be detained,” he said.

Inside the police van, he was asked to hand over a small bag he was wearing, which he refused to do.

“I was afraid they wanted to make it disappear like they did to my friend’s phone,” he said.

“As soon as I refused, five policemen jumped on me in the back of the car – one strangled me with two hands on my neck, another pressed his knee to my chest, a third grabbed my legs and another punched me in the face. I felt like I was suffocating,” he said.

Israelis attend a protest against the Israeli government’s planned judicial overhaul, at HaBima square in Tel Aviv, on May 4, 2023. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

An eyewitness from among those protesting against the overhaul told Haaretz that he saw De Bresser loaded into a police van and then afterward noticed him causing a disruption on the inside, to the extent that it caused the vehicle to shake.

De Bresser confirmed those details to Haaretz but said he was responding to the violence that he suffered from police.

In an effort to break free, De Bresser said he pinched one of the police officers until officers eventually handcuffed him. It was that action that police told a magistrate’s court constituted assault of an officer.

However, De Bresser claims officers continued to beat him even after he was handcuffed, with one accusing him of breaking his watch.

At the police station, the same officer told him: “When you see me on the street you will have to cross the sidewalk and keep your head down.”

The following day Petah Tikva Magistrate’s Court ordered him released under restrictions. He was also ordered to stay away from Rehovot for ten days.

De Bresser went to the Kaplan Medical Center in Rehovot and was diagnosed with a broken nose, the report said, without clarifying when that medical assessment was made.

In the photo accompanying the Haaretz article, De Bresser appeared to have a black eye.

In a statement to Haaretz, police said that it was a legal arrest of “a citizen who committed a criminal offense, refused to be detained, and attacked police officers with the aim of harming their operational activities.”

“Any allegation of behavior that deviates from what is acceptable should be examined by the authorities authorized to do so,” the statement said.

De Bresser’s attorney from the right-wing legal aid group Honenu told Haaretz that his client “spent a night in jail needlessly, even more so when he was injured after he was vigorously attacked by officers after he dared to criticize them.”

Since January there have been mass protests against the overhaul by critics who say it will sap the High Court of its ability to act as a check and balance against parliament, dangerously eroding Israel’s democratic character. The government and its supporters say the overhaul is needed to rein in an overreaching court.

There have been a number of incidents of violence at the protests in recent weeks, including last month when a mounted police officer beat a young woman with what appeared to be a whip during a mass demonstration in Tel Aviv in what appeared to be an unprovoked assault.

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