Police probe far-right MK Almog Cohen on suspicion of decade-old police brutality

Party leader Ben Gvir decries AG’s authorization of investigation as ‘political persecution’; MK’s office says he ‘does not regret anything he did in his service’

Sam Sokol is the Times of Israel's political correspondent. He was previously a reporter for the Jerusalem Post, Jewish Telegraphic Agency and Haaretz. He is the author of "Putin’s Hybrid War and the Jews"

Otzma Yehudit leader Itamar Ben Gvir (L) and MK Almog Cohen embrace at the Knesset in Jerusalem, November 22, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Otzma Yehudit leader Itamar Ben Gvir (L) and MK Almog Cohen embrace at the Knesset in Jerusalem, November 22, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Police said Thursday that they had questioned MK Almog Cohen, a member of the far-right Otzma Yehudit party, over allegations he used violence against a civilian during his service in the Israel Police, after the probe got a green light from Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara.

In response, National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir accused Baharav-Miara of engaging in “political persecution.”

The directive to investigate Cohen “regarding an incident that happened more than a decade ago, is grave and smells strongly of political persecution,” Ben Gvir said in a statement accusing Baharav-Miara of opposing his push to get more guns into the hands of civilians “for political reasons.”

“In any case, her attempt to threaten right-wing elected officials will not stop us from continuing to act in favor of saving the citizens of Israel,” he declared.

Police said that Cohen was questioned under caution by members of Lahav 433, the Israel Police’s criminal investigation division, about an alleged violent act he carried out in 2013 while an officer in the Yasam special riot police unit, after the MK posted a photo online last year with an image of him forcefully holding down several people and the caption “Those below remember what I did in the army.”

Hebrew media reports said that a complaint was filed around the time of the incident but closed when the officer in question could not be identified, but after Cohen’s post surfaced online, the complainants came forward again and the attorney general ordered the case reopened.

The freshman lawmaker has developed a reputation as a firebrand, calling for opposition leaders to “be put in handcuffs,” screaming at the families of hostages held in Gaza that they were “representing Hamas,” and being reprimanded by the Knesset Ethics Committee for likening Arab party MKs to sheep.

He was also temporarily suspended from Twitter last January after tweeting his support for a deadly IDF raid and urging soldiers to “keep killing them.”

“MK Cohen served all his adult life as a fighter in the security forces, fought with his comrades in arms on the seventh of October and does not regret anything he did in his service for the state and against those who seek its destruction,” Cohen’s spokesman said in a statement.

The news of the probe into Cohen comes a day after Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara announced the indictment of far-left MK Ofer Cassif on charges of aggravated assault against a police officer resulting from an altercation involving the MK in the West Bank, in May 2022.

Last week, 85 Knesset members signed a document calling for impeachment proceedings against the Hadash-Ta’al legislator over his public support for a South African motion accusing Israel of genocide before the International Court of Justice in The Hague.

Jeremy Sharon and Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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