The Jerusalem District Court ordered Elisha Yered released to house arrest, after police waged a stiff two-day legal battle to keep him in prison while investigating his connection to the fatal shooting of Qusai Jamal Ma’atan, 19 on August 4.
The order allowed police to hold suspect Yehiel Indore in custody until Friday. He allegedly fired the fatal bullet during a violent clash between settlers and Palestinians outside the Burka village in the West Bank on Friday evening.
Both men were arrested “on suspicion of causing the death of a person either intentionally or with indifference, and for other crimes committed with a racial motive,” police told the courts.
Yered’s release was secured after almost 15 hours of legal wrangling by his attorneys, Avichay Hajbi and Nati Rom, from the right-wing legal defense group Honenu.
Some of his supporters and family members clapped and burst into song as the shackles were removed from his legs and he walked out of the courtroom.
Police took Yered into custody immediately following the Friday night incident along with Yehiel Indore, who is suspected of firing the fatal bullet.
Yered’s attorneys – Avichay Hajbi and Nati Rom – called the Friday incident both a “lynch” and “terror attack,” explaining that Indore fatally shot Ma’atan only after he was hit in the head with a stone that fractured his skull.
Indore underwent a four-hour surgery after the attack and has been held in custody in the hospital, while Yered has been imprisoned.
What happened outside Burka?
Yered and Indore were called to the scene by a Jewish shepherd herding his sheep some 250 meters from the back end of Burka in the Binyamin Region of the West Bank around 7 p.m. on Friday.
He asked for help from area settlers including those in the nearby Oz Zion outpost, explaining that he had been attacked by Palestinians.
The incident, which drew an increasing number of Palestinians and settlers, lasted close to two hours before security forces were called to the scene. When they arrived, Ma’atan was already dead and Indore injured.
The court battle began on Tuesday when police sought to keep the suspects in custody, but a Magistrate’s Court ordered their release to house arrest.
Attention initially focused Tuesday just on Yered, who was expected to be freed after both the Magistrates Court and the District Court upheld a house arrest but said that there was insufficient evidence to keep him behind bars.
Yered has also made headlines because he had worked earlier this year as a spokesperson for Otzma Yehudit MK Limor Son Har-Melech.
Initially, his release was blocked. However, the police, with the state’s support, sought to keep him in custody by turning to the High Court of Justice, which heard the case on Wednesday morning.
The High Court took the state to task for appealing to it before exhausting all options with the lower courts.
The case then returned to the Magistrates Court, which denied the request to keep the men in custody, placing them under house arrest. Police then appealed to the District Court, which debated the matter on Wednesday evening.
The court proceedings on Tuesday had centered on evidence gathered by police. The basis of Wednesday’s court hearings was a secret file containing evidence police said they had only received the night before.
The court erred by ordering house arrest at a “time when a complex investigation is underway,” police said, warning that Yered in particular could disrupt the investigation if released and inflame area tensions.
Hajbi and Rom have told the court Yered had no connection to the murder and that the state had exploited the situation to hold him by falsely connecting him to the larger security situation in the West Bank.
At the High Court hearing, Yered, with long payot, was brought into the room from prison wearing a green T-shirt and a large crocheted skullcap.
His family came to court to support him, including his grandmother who blew him a kiss, and his young wife who brought their small son in a baby carriage.
She held him up so he could see his father. The family continued from there along with the attorneys to the Magistrates Court with Yered joining virtually.
In that hearing, the suspects’ attorneys quizzed police, asking why the most serious charges had been leveled against their clients. They noted that five Palestinians had also been arrested but not charged with attempted murder.
Police said the Palestinians arrested to date, who had been released with restrictions, were charged with “aggravated intentional damage, throwing stones, and participation in a riot.”
The police retorted that the Honenu attorneys were only considering the narrative in which Palestinians had attacked Jews, but not the counter-narrative, while police had to consider all perspectives.
“At the end, there is a body and there is someone wounded,” police said.
The Honenu attorneys said they believed that in a situation where Indore suffered a skull injury and shot in the air in self-defense, the Palestinians involved should have been accused of “attempted murder.”
Police responded that “the things” the suspects’ attorneys were presenting “were not necessarily reflected in the “evidentiary file with respect to who went where and why.”
One of the Honenu attorneys pressed the police, noting that “isn’t it correct that the Arabs didn’t come in peace, they brought batons and threw stones.”
The police responded by stating that “the Jews were also armed and came with face masks.” In addition, the police said, the Jews involved in the incident “took the law into their own hands.”
The police did not present a clear counter-narrative. The left-wing group Yesh Din, which is not a party to the proceedings, however, has issued a short summary of its own investigation into the situation.
Yesh Din said that Indore was hit in the head with a stone only after he had shot Ma’atan with an M-16 rifle from a distance of some 160 meters. Settlers in turn have argued that Indore used a handgun and shot at short range.