The Justice Ministry’s Police Investigation Department has opened a probe into alleged police brutality against demonstrators in Haifa.
Police arrested 21 people among the hundreds of demonstrators who marched in the port city on Friday night to protest Israel’s actions on the Gaza border.
On Saturday night, more than 200 protesters, Jewish and Arab, gathered in Haifa to continue the demonstrations, calling for peace and against an escalation of violence in the Gaza Strip.
The demonstrations came on the first Friday and Saturday of Ramadan and after the “Great March of Return” protests ended in Gaza last week.
They also came after an estimated 60 Palestinians were killed last Monday and amid calls by the UN Human Rights Council to investigate Israel’s actions.
A Hamas official subsequently admitted that 50 of the persons claimed slain in Monday’s border riots were members of his organization, and Islamic Jihad said another three belonged to it.
Jafar Farah, the director of the Haifa-based Mossawa Center – The Advocacy Center for Arab Citizens in Israel was one of those detained. He was hospitalized after his knee was broken.
The Mossawa Center published a post on social media saying the injury occurred while Farah was under police supervision.
On Saturday, Joint List chairman Ayman Odeh attempted to visit Farah, and was recorded lashing out at a police officer who prevented him from doing so.
Odeh said, “In recent years, we have been witnessing an organized attack by the police against protesters, Arab citizens, throughout the country in an attempt to oppress and silence the protest against events in Gaza.
“I went to the hospital to check Jafar Farah’s situation, after he was arrested healthy and reached a situation at the hands of the police, where he needed to be hospitalized,” Odeh said. “The police ignored my parliamentary immunity and aggressively blocked my way.
“Any citizen who believes in freedom of expression should be against the police’s behavior in recent days and join our protest,” the MK said.
A statement put out by the Israel Police on Sunday said an initial investigation did not find anything irregular surrounding Farah’s arrest. Materials from the protest and documents from the hospital were transferred to the Police Investigation Department.
The spokesman for the Hof district police on Sunday evening said the Haifa station was prepared with reinforcements for the fresh protests that were taking place, with hundreds of people demonstrating at three different locations in the city. Dozens of right-wing activists held counter protests.
It added that of 19 of those arrested on Friday remained in detention after participating in an “unrestrained protest,” when “one of the detainees” – an apparent reference to Farah – was taken to the hospital after he was allegedly injured in the leg.
VIDEO OF Friday’s protest showed participants chanting and marching along Jaffa Street in downtown Haifa.
Some of those who attended called it a “day of rage against the occupation.”
The members of the crowd chanted in Arabic and clapped as they walked down the streets, some of them holding Palestinian flags.
The arrests and clashes with police took place at Paris Square, also known by locals as Hamra Square. “They attacked the crowd and some cops made sure to aim for my camera,” wrote Nadine Nashef, who attended the rally. The protest ended around midnight.
Joint List MK Ahmad Tibi accused the police of brutality against Israeli- Arab demonstrators in Jerusalem earlier last week, and in Haifa over the weekend.
“The wild onslaught of police upon us in Jerusalem and the attack and arrest of protesters in Haifa, claiming that waving a Palestinian flag is agitation, is a contrivance of the police and is against the law,” Tibi said and called for Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit to get involved.
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman responded on Sunday to the events by writing: “Every day in which Odeh and his friends walk around free and curse police officers is a failure of the law enforcement authorities.
“These terrorists belong not in the Knesset but in prison, it is about time they pay the price for what they are doing,” he wrote.
Other cabinet ministers also spoke out against the Joint List MKs.
Communications Minister Ayoub Kara said, “The behavior of some Israeli Arabs in Haifa, and specifically their representatives in the Knesset from the Joint List, is somewhere between incitement and treachery.
The time has come for the incited mob to decide if they support Hamas and terrorism, or if they’re part of the democratic and Western State of Israel.
“They can’t enjoy the rights and benefits that the State of Israel provides and then protest and support the enemy,” Kara said.
Construction Minister Yoav Gallant said, “We won’t allow the Arab MKs to take advantage of Israeli democracy to harm the state and its institutions. Continuing to support terrorism on the [border] fence in Gaza and demonstrations in support of those who call to destroy Israel requires us to remove the inciters from the Knesset.”
Meretz MK Ilan Gilon, chairman of the Knesset Caucus Against Police Violence, said on social media on Saturday that he had passed an urgent question to Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan regarding the arrest of Farah.
“I demand to know if police brutality led to Jafar Farah’s broken leg,” wrote Gilon. “The idea that a protester leaves his home to exercise his democratic right and is taken to an interrogation because of that, and he ends up with his limbs broken, is a thought that makes my blood run cold.”
Gilon called on the police to immediately look into the matter and called on all Israeli citizens “not to be intimidated, [and] to go out and exercise the right to free expression.”Hagay Hacohen contributed to this report.
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