Yitzhar settlers win libel suit against police

Police guilty of falsely accusing plaintiffs of armed robbery, assault, stealing goats from Palestinian.

yitzhar confrontation298 (photo credit: AP [file])
yitzhar confrontation298
(photo credit: AP [file])
The Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court on Monday partially accepted a lawsuit filed by four settlers from Yitzhar and ordered the state to pay NIS 10,000 to each of them and to their lawyer.
Judge Irit Cohen found the police guilty of libeling the plaintiffs after accusing them of armed robbery, assault, stealing goats from a Palestinian, and preventing the police from doing their job.
The case grew out an incident on June 9, 2004, when a Palestinian goatherd complained that a resident of the Yitzhar, near Nablus, had stolen his goats. The police escorted him to the settlement and returned the goats to him.
As the goatherd was returning to his village, he was attacked by settlers who took back the goats back by force. In the meantime, the members of Yitzhar’s readiness unit went down in the direction of the assault, apparently to protect the settlers, though they say they were alerted for another reason.
The members of the readiness unit, Boaz Albert, Akiva Hacohen, Eran Schwartz and Moshe Skali, maintained that they were not involved in the assault and were far away from the confrontation between the settlers and the goatherd.
Meanwhile, a police unit, that had remained near Yitzhar after returning the goats to the goatherd, rushed down to arrest the settlers. The police claim that the members of the readiness group blocked their way and interfered with their actions. They arrested the four and detained them in jail.
However, Cohen ruled that the police had presented false and misleading testimony regarding the incident. She said that Yaakov Golan, one of policeman who took part in the incident, wrote a report saying that the plaintiffs had stolen the sheep. In a sworn affidavit that he signed later, he omitted the charge. Later, he also admitted that he had not seen the attack against the goatherd.
Cohen also found that another policeman presented “information that may have been misleading” to the court in the hearings to extend the remand of the suspects. He told the court the plaintiffs had charged the goatherd and attacked him, even though “it had been proven that the plaintiffs had not charged the Palestinian or attacked him” and that the police had not witnessed any such incident.
Meanwhile, in a radio interview, Dep.-Cmdr. Eliezer Elharar said that 10 people from Yitzhar, armed with weapons, “attacked the Palestinian goatherd with severe violence.”
Cohen found Elharar guilty of libel for this and other charges, which were made on the basis of police reports that he received.
The organization Human Rights in Judea, Samaria and Gaza wrote that itslawyer, Elad Rosenblatt, had “succeeded in revealing one of the gravestincidents in the continuous attacks against the residents of Yitzharand demonstrating how police hostility toward the settlers drives theminto resorting to lies and defamations, which are utterly unacceptablefrom those who are supposed to be law-abiding.”
The organization said it would complain to the Justice Ministry’s Police Investigations Department against the officers.