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Police officers questioned over beating of Joint List lawmaker

Several members of Jerusalem branch of special patrol unit probed, some under caution, over incident involving MK Ofer Cassif; all later conditionally released

A police officer scuffles with Ofer Cassif, a Jewish member of the predominantly Arab Joint List party, during a demonstration in East Jerusalem on April 9, 2021 (AHMAD GHARABLI / AFP)
A police officer scuffles with Ofer Cassif, a Jewish member of the predominantly Arab Joint List party, during a demonstration in East Jerusalem on April 9, 2021 (AHMAD GHARABLI / AFP)

Several officers from the police special patrol unit were questioned Monday over the beating of Joint List MK Ofer Cassif.

Some of the officers were questioned under caution, though all were later released under certain restrictions as the investigation continues.

The officers who were questioned under caution are suspected of assault and excessive use of force, among other offenses, Channel 12 reported.

There were conflicting reports as to whether four or five officers were questioned.

The officers were called in the day after Cassif filed a complaint with the Justice Ministry’s Police Internal Investigations Department and in the wake of testimony given to the PIID by the commander of the Jerusalem district special patrol unit, Chief Superintendent Ronen Hazut.

Cassif, the only Jewish Knesset member in the predominantly Arab Joint List party, was participating Friday in a weekly demonstration in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood against planned evictions when the violence broke out.

Officers initially said that Cassif had hit them first. The most recent version of events offered by police said that the Knesset member had incited the officers to beat him, allegedly saying that he dared them to hit him.

Cassif has dismissed the police claims as “a string of lies.”

In addition to filing a complaint with the PIID, he has said he will ask Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit to open his own investigation into the incident.

In footage of the Friday clash, Cassif can be seen arguing with police officers amid a crowd, before one officer pushes him.

A mask-clad Cassif appeared to say something, with the officers proceeding to strike and violently grab him.

Cassif then reached his hand toward the face of one of the officers, who punched the MK on top of the head.

After wrestling Cassif to the ground, some of the officers appeared to continue beating him, as shouts of “shame” could be heard from the demonstrators.

In another clip, an officer can be seen kneeling on Cassif’s face as he was on the ground.

MK Ofer Cassif, a Jewish member of the predominantly Arab Joint List electoral alliance, is pictured after being beaten and detained by Israeli police, during a demonstration in Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood on April 9, 2021. (AHMAD GHARABLI / AFP)

Cassif sustained light injuries, his glasses were broken and his shirt was ripped during the scuffle. Police used stun grenades to clear protesters.

Footage shows nearby protesters shouting at officers, telling them to stop and identifying Cassif as a lawmaker.

“He’s an MK. Are you psychopaths?” one person can be heard asking in the video shown on Channel 12 news on Saturday. “You’re a group of psychopaths!”

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