Crime scene [illustrative].
(photo credit: INGIMAGE)
An IDF soldier may face hate crime and assault and battery charges for allegedly kicking an innocent Beduin man who had been restrained by security guards at a Beersheba mall on Sunday, on suspicion that he was a terrorist.
In Beersheba Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday, Detective Moti Kakon described how the soldier, 20-year-old Idan Yonah, was walking past the Negev Mall in Beersheba when he saw a local Beduin man restrained by two security guards outside the mall.
Yonah and a second suspect then ran over and attacked him, Kakon said, with Yonah kicking the restrained man three times. The man did not need medical assistance afterwards, Kakon said.
Negev police said Tuesday night the Beduin man had not tried to enter the mall; he was passing through the parking lot when the security guards asked to see his ID.
The man refused, and a scuffle broke out between him and the guards.
Yonah’s attorney, Elad Ron, said that Yonah “saw two people trying to fight off an Arab man and heard people shouting ‘terrorist’ and came to help.”
Kakon responded that he had seen footage of the incident, saying, “We must not have seen the same video. In the video I saw, he kicked the victim while he was on the ground with two security guards on top of him. I didn’t see a video where they were in need of help or called for help.
“He [Yonah] didn’t come to help, he came to kick,” Kakon added.
Elad stressed that his client is a soldier on active duty with no criminal record who “saw two security guards struggling with another man. There’s no time to think in situations like this.”
Judge Amir Doron disagreed with the attorney, saying it did not appear that the guards were in need of help.
At the end of the hearing, Doron ordered Yonah kept in custody until Friday while police work on the case.
Elad and Lior Cohen – the attorney for the second suspect – said they plan to appeal the remand extension on Thursday.
The incident is the latest in a series of recent cases in which Israeli civilians have attacked terrorists or innocents mistaken for terrorists, after they were already subdued, amid a wave of Palestinian terrorist attacks.
In the most well-known instance, in mid-October, Eritrean asylum seeker Haptom Zarhum died after he was shot and beaten by a group of bystanders at the Beersheba bus station – across the street from the Negev mall – after he was mistaken for a terrorist. A Beduin Israeli from Hura had opened fire at the station, killing in an IDF soldier and wounding several policemen, and Zarhum was mistaken for a second attacker in the chaos that ensued.
Last Monday in Netanya, a man tried to assault a restrained Palestinian who had just carried out a stabbing attack, but was prevented from doing so by policemen who were struggling to hold back a mob of dozens of locals. The man fought with police and was arrested. He himself was then mistaken for a terrorist and had to be evacuated by police before the crowd could attack him.
After the arrests in Beersheba were announced Tuesday night, head of the Negev police district, Dep.-Ch. Amnon Alkalai said: “Police view with great severity the fact that there are civilians who feel they have the freedom to take the law into their own hands and attack a helpless man who cannot defend himself.”