Cops sentenced for assaulting protester

Policemen severely beat anti-disengagement demonstrator; judge: "Events were mismanaged."

settler demonstration 22 (photo credit: AP)
settler demonstration 22
(photo credit: AP)
The Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court on Thursday meted out a sentence of community service to two policemen who were convicted of assaulting and injuring an anti-disengagement protester in 2005. The judge ruled that Eran Naim, an officer in the Dan precinct, must carry out six months of community service for pushing demonstrator Akiva Vitkin, while Eliran Avraham, who was convicted of assaulting Vitkin after Vitkin was arrested and taken into police custody, was sentenced to three months. "Violence is a societal ill in any instance, and every effort must be made to uproot it," Judge Hanan Eftrati wrote in his ruling. "If violence is not rooted out, we will soon find ourselves in a society where the strong imposes his will on the weak and robs the victim of his rights." Judge Efrati added that the severity of the violence offence was heightened when it was the arbitrary act of a law-enforcement official. "Every one of these defendants has harmed, with his actions, the network of trust that must abide between the public and its police." The events surrounding the 2005 disengagement from the Gaza Strip and northern Samaria were mismanaged, the judge said, adding that in his opinion Israel should have instituted a reconciliation committee. Naim and Avraham's attorneys claimed that the decision would hinder police operations by causing officers to think twice before carrying out assignments for fear of prosecution. "Today the situation has been created whereas those who are supposed to protect us all and enforce the law are emasculated, while those who do wield force are free to act with impunity." Witkon charged that during the demonstration, which included blocking Rehov Jabotinsky, a main thoroughfare along the Bnei Brak-Ramat Gan municipal boundary, policemen knocked him to the ground and pinned him down. Naim then kneeled down behind Witkon's head, stuck his fingers into the protester's nostrils and pulled them forcefully backwards, causing Witkon to bleed profusely. Later, Witkon was taken to police headquarters. After talking back to a policeman, he was taken into a small room and beaten by several officers, including the other defendant in the trial, Avraham. Witkon testified that there were 10 policemen and - women in the room, who forced him to lie down on the floor and then started beating him. Then, '[Eliran] approached me and slapped me a couple of times and punched me a couple of times with all his might when I couldn't resist. He continued punching me in the stomach with his fists and gave me a head butt.' Witkon said Naim "shoved his fingers into my nostrils and pulled back hard in order to tear something. A large amount of blood spurted out." Before that, other policemen had "choked me, twisted my arms backwards and pushed my nose into my skull in order to break the nose." "This course of action is irregular, disproportionate, and uncalled for under the circumstances," the judge wrote in his ruling. "Under such conditions, when the demonstrator is sprawled on the ground with one officer astride him and two more at his side, it is inconceivable that there was justification and need for…using force." Dan Izenberg contributed to this report.