Police on Saturday arrested one of the organizers of a weekly demonstration against government corruption, after he tried to hang a sign protesting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu along the route of the Giro d’Italia bicycle race in Tel Aviv.
Yishai Hadas was detained while carrying a sign reading “Crime Minister.”
Police said he was held because he planned to interfere in the race. The Giro d’Italia, one of the most prestigious road cycling races in the world which is taking place in Israel for the first time. It entered the 167-kilometer (104-mile) second stage Saturday as competitors rode down the Mediterranean coast from Haifa to Tel Aviv.
However, Israel Radio quoted Hadas’ lawyer as saying that it was to prevent the prime minister any embarrassment in the race, which has been billed as a public relations coup for Israel.
The lawyer accused police of violating his client’s right to free speech.
Hundreds of Israelis have been gathering weekly at Habima Square in central Tel Aviv on for anti-corruption protests against Netanyahu.
The recent Tel Aviv protests began after nearly a year of anti-corruption demonstrations held in Petah Tikva every Saturday evening near Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit’s home, with organizers accusing Israel’s top prosecutor of slow-walking the probes involving the prime minister.
Police have recommended that Netanyahu be indicted in a pair of corruption investigations, known as Cases 1000 and 2000.
He is also a suspect in the Case 4000 investigation that involves suspicions that Bezeq’s controlling shareholder Shaul Elovitch ordered the Walla news site, which he owns, to grant positive coverage to the Netanyahus in exchange for the prime minister’s advancement of regulations benefiting him financially.
In Case 1000, Netanyahu and his wife are suspected of receiving illicit gifts from billionaire benefactors, amounting to some NIS 1 million ($282,000) worth of cigars and champagne from the Israeli-born Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan and Australian resort owner James Packer, in return for certain benefits.
Case 2000 involves a suspected illicit quid-pro-quo deal between Netanyahu and Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper publisher Arnon Mozes that would have seen the prime minister weaken a rival daily, the Sheldon Adelson-backed Israel Hayom, in return for more favorable coverage from Yedioth.
Netanyahu has denied wrongdoing in any of the cases.