A senior police officer who was convicted of physically assaulting two people during a protest against former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu in 2020 was sentenced on Tuesday to five months of probation by the Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court.
Chief Superintendent Niso Guetta of the Jerusalem police was convicted in June of attacking demonstrator Avichai Michael Green, 31, and Yalon Gurewitz, 62, a photographer covering the protest that took place in August 2020 outside the Prime Minister’s Residence on Balfour street in the capital.
The court had found that Guetta used “excessive force without reasonable cause” against Green and Gurewitz.
“The right to protest is a basic right and protesters are law-abiding citizens,” the court ruled, adding that Guetta’s behavior “was tempestuous and excessive.”
The senior police officer initially denied using excessive force, claiming that he acted according to protocol after protesters had assaulted him both verbally and physically.
But the indictment painted a different picture.
As officers engaged with the protesters, the indictment said, Guetta attacked Green, who had complained to him about police conduct during the protest.
“Green approached Guetta and complained to him about the behavior of the police toward the protesters at the scene. In response, the defendant forcefully struck the demonstrator with both hands in the face, twice,” the charge sheet read.
Minutes later, according to the indictment, Guetta also “forcefully struck” Gurewitz, as the photographer was following the police superintendent during the arrest of another protester.
In a widely distributed video clip of the event, Guetta can be seen shoving and smacking Green and then pushing people to the side, before chasing down and hitting Gurewitz in the face. Guetta and other officers then dragged him along the pavement before hauling him off.
— כאן חדשות (@kann_news) August 22, 2020
Additionally, pictures captured by a wire service photographer showed Guetta kneeling on a supine protester and pushing his head to the ground with his elbow.
הייתי שם אתמול מול השוטר שחבט בעוצמה במפגין. לא הייתה שום התגרות או פרובוקציה מצד המפגין. אני מגיע לכל הפגנה, תמיד מקפיד להודות לשוטרים על עבודתם המקצועית, אך אתמול נחצה גבול.
אסור שאירוע כזה יקרה שוב pic.twitter.com/x8EP4xdnks
— Yair Golan – יאיר גולן (@YairGolan1) August 23, 2020
Responding to Guetta’s sentencing on Tuesday, the Department of Internal Police Investigations said in a statement: “The court has accepted our position and has sentenced the defendant to probation, ruling that a senior police officer, who committed an offense while on duty will be held accountable.
“Hopefully, this court decision serves as a warning to all police officers regarding their duty to remain professional and avoid using force and violence, and especially to commanders who are expected to set an example to their subordinates.”