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Witness in alleged ramming at anti-Netanyahu rally dragged out of bed to testify

Man says police attempted to intimidate him by arriving at his home at 1 a.m., taking him to station; police suspect driver of premeditated grievous assault

Screen capture from video of a car, center, as it hits anti-government protesters during a rally in Tel Aviv, October 1, 2020. (Twitter)
Screen capture from video of a car, center, as it hits anti-government protesters during a rally in Tel Aviv, October 1, 2020. (Twitter)

A witness to an alleged car-ramming attack on protesters at an anti-Netanyahu rally in Tel Aviv last week said Monday he was taken for questioning in the middle of the night in what he believed was an attempt by police to intimidate him.

Alec Yefremov had been detained at last Thursday’s demonstration and put in a cell next to 35-year-old Pini Luzon, who is suspected of stopping his car and then accelerating into a group of protesters standing in the middle of a road near the protest site, before speeding away.

Yefremov posted on social media that he had heard Luzon threatening protesters in nearby cells, saying: “Wait until we meet outside. Look at what I will do to you. I am one who rammed [the car].”

Yefremov told Channel 12 news that, once home, he received a phone call from an unknown number at around 1 a.m. in the early hours of Monday and then a police car arrived at his home.

Yefremov’s friend filmed the interaction with the police officers. The timing was not independently confirmed.

“They took my cellphone and told me I was detained,” Yefremov said. “I was put in a car and at the police station the police officer read me my rights as if I were being interrogated under caution.”

1 בלילה. Alec Yefremov אחד הקולות הבולטים במחאה מעוכב מביתו 'בשביל לתת עדות'. הפלאפון שלו הוחרם. משטרת ישראל הופכת…

Posted by Shay Sekler on Sunday, October 4, 2020

“I was not asked about what I did as a demonstrator, but only about what I wrote about the ramming at the demonstration. I feel that I was abducted from my home,” Yefremov said.

He told the Walla news site that he believed it was an attempt to intimidate him.

“It seemed to me like an intimidation attempt. I think they wanted to send me a message because of my involvement in the demonstrations,” he said.

The ramming incident last week, caught on film, occurred as thousands took to the streets to protest new coronavirus restrictions that limit the ongoing demonstrations over Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s indictment on graft charges and handling of the pandemic.

Luzon, the suspected rammer, was stopped at a nearby lockdown roadblock but was allowed to pass despite visible damage to his car. He was arrested in the early hours of Friday morning, police said.

At a hearing on Sunday, Luzon was ordered released to house arrest. However, police appealed the ruling and on Monday his detention was extended until Tuesday.

Pini Luzon (Channel 12 screenshot)

Police told the court that he is suspected of premeditated grievous assault. If found guilty of that charge, he could face up to 20 years in prison.

On Friday Luzon asserted he was trying to get away from the demonstrators, not attack them.

“I got stuck in the situation and got scared. I felt surrounded and attacked in my car, so I fled the scene,” he told the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court. “I was in a storm of emotions.”

Luzon claimed the incident was not politically motivated and he had no affinity for the prime minister, whom the demonstrators were protesting against.

“I don’t even like Bibi and I don’t like politics,” he said, using Netanyahu’s nickname.

In video of the incident shared on social media, a woman is seen falling to the ground before standing up again. The Magen David Adom emergency service later said that after examinations, nobody was found to be injured.

The Tel Aviv rally was one of over 1,000 small, scattered demonstrations that erupted around the country on Thursday night as a Knesset committee gave the final approval needed for legislation restricting protests to within a kilometer of one’s home, and to groups of no more than 20 people.

Protesters have been victims of multiple attacks, most recently on Saturday when an 81-year-old woman was said to have been shoved to the ground in Jerusalem. Her condition was not immediately known. In north Tel Aviv, protesters said a woman was assaulted and wounded.

In Pardes Hannah, a protester’s arm was allegedly broken by an attacker, while in Holon and Ramat Gan, glass bottles were hurled at demonstrators.

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