Gag order on mosque torching suspect partially lifted

"Price tag" suspect is yeshiva student from northern Israel; police say forensic evidence found at scene of crime.

By
October 6, 2011 16:49
3 minute read.
Tuba Zanghariya men pray outside bured mosque

Tuba Zanghariya residents pray outside bured mosque 311. (photo credit: Ben Hartman)

 
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The Kfar Saba Magistrate Court ruled on Thursday to partially lift a sweeping gag order on the details of the mosque torching in Tuba Zanghariya overnight Sunday in an apparent "Price Tag" attack. The gag order prevented publication of any details of legal proceedings against the suspect. 

To date, court hearings regarding the suspect have so far been conducted behind closed doors.

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Media representatives had objected to the gag order, arguing that because of the nature of the crime, it is in the public's interest to publish details of the suspect, particularly as his remand was extended Thursday for the second time until October 11.

Judge Michael Karshen agreed to reduce the gag order, although not to remove it completely, to take into account the public's right to know without compromising the investigation. The gag order still prohibits publishing the suspect's name and details of his identity.

Initial suspicions against the suspect, who attends a yeshiva in the West Bank, have only grown, the Kfar Saba magistrate said during the remand hearing.

The suspect is said by police to have entered the mosque in Tuba Zanghariya early on October 3, setting it on fire and causing heavy damage.

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His attorney, Adi Kedar, questioned what evidence police had to link the suspect to the incident and called for his client to be released. Police said basic forensic evidence had been taken from the scene of the crime but refused to provide further details.

Kedar called the police's request to keep the suspect in custody for 11 days "exaggerated," adding that a "strange sequence of events led to the suspect's arrest in Samaria."

The suspect had been initially arrested on suspicion of illegal use of a vehicle before later being tied to the attack on the mosque.

A group of five youths appeared in the court's spectator stand to offer their support to the suspect, occasionally waving and smiling at him.

Home Front Defense Minister Matan Vilna’i condemned the torching of the mosque, during a visit to the Benduin village on Thursday.

Vilna'i pledged government responsibility for the reconstruction of the mosque and assistance to the village.

"Whoever committed this criminal act is trying to incite the field," he said. "The police and security forces will do everything possible in order to catch and severely punish those responsible for the incident. We will not let any radical element incite the Galilee and damage our good relations with our neighbors."

Attack comes amid a recent wave of similar attacks

Also on Thursday, Judea and Samaria police arrested a youth from the Telmon area on suspicion that the suspect and his friends had damaged olive trees belonging to Palestinians in the Kursa village, according to Israel Radio.

Palestinians reported Sunday morning that dozens of olive trees has been damaged and a young man was seen fleeing the area with friends.

Last month, police announced the formation of a special task force to track down and arrest far-right extremists who were behind price tag incidents in the West Bank.

"These acts are so dangerous, and harmful on a national level. They can result in an escalation, and this is the last thing the country needs," Danino said in September.

Since the demolition of three homes in the Migron settlement on September 5, two mosques in the West Bank in the towns of Yatma and Quasara were vandalized with the same graffiti. Additionally, price-tag vandals infiltrated an army base next to the Beit-El settlement and damaged 13 vehicles.

Two weeks ago, a left-wing activist in Jerusalem was the recipient of one such attack, after right-wing demonstrators spray-painted “Price Tag Migron” on the entrance to her building in the Katamon neighborhood of Jerusalem.

Also on Thursday, Jews who prayed at Joseph's Tomb in Nablus the previous night reported that they erased graffiti and swastikas found spray-painted on the walls, according to Israel Radio.

About 1,300 Jews prayed at the site Wednesday night, in coordination with the IDF and security forces at the tomb.

Jpost.com staff contributed to this report

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