Israeli forces arrested at least 21 people who were protesting against the brutal, indiscriminate killings of over a 100 Palestinians protesters in Gaza during the Great March of Return. One of them, an Arab civil rights leader, alleges Israeli police broke his knee for no reason.
Jafar Farah, who heads Mossawa Center, was at the protest — but he wasn’t demonstrating. He was only looking for his son who had gone to the protest but the civil rights leader soon found himself in the middle of a circle of riot police.
“My son went to the protest — I raised my children to go to protests — and when I got there to look for him I realized that the place was surrounded by riot police and that it wasn’t possible to leave,” Farah said in court. “I tried to leave but a police officer wouldn’t let me. Later, when I was already two blocks away from the protest, the same officer came up to me and arrested me.”
Later, Farah recounted, when he was sitting in his cell along with other detainees, he asked one of the police officers the whereabouts of his son. Rather than answering his question in a civil way, the police officer instead physically lashed out at him.
“I came to look for my son at the protest and instead of leaving with him, I have been in jail with him for 48 hours,” said Farah. “Among other things, one of the officers inside the Haifa police station decided to strike my leg and break my knee.”
In an interview with Army Radio, Farah said he saw his son lying on the floor, covered in blood. When he asked the officer why they had treated his son so, one of them broke his knee.
However, the Police Commissioner at the National College in Beit Shemesh, Roni Alsheich , said Farah was injured during the riots.
Although, according to photos of his arrest, it doesn’t seem like his leg was broken at the time.
Israeli police arrested Jafar Farah, head of Palestinian civil rights org @MossawaCenter, who was hospitalized on Friday night after police beat Farah and broke his knee while in custody. pic.twitter.com/Ep8TDGV6qJ— The IMEU (@theIMEU) May 21, 2018
Farah also said the officers also threatened the doctors at the Ramban Hospital in Haifa where he was taken to be treated for severe blunt trauma to his torso, along with the leg injury. According to him, the police told the hospital staff to release him and used intimidation, even though Farah was still in need of further treatment.
“The doctors said that I need to stay in the hospital,” Farah told the court. “[The police officers] threatened the doctors that if they don’t release me they would be summoned for interrogation — I heard it while I was shackled to the hospital bed.”
At least seven protesters were brought to the hospital for treatment, Haifa police admitted Sunday night.
Police officers at the hospital also filed a criminal complaint against Ayman Odeh, an Israeli-Arab member of the Knesset and head of the Joint List, for calling the officers “losers” in Hebrew. The interaction occurred as Odeh was trying to check up on Farah and the police threatened to arrest him if he didn’t leave.
Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan also demanded the attorney general open an investigation into Odeh for interfering in police work, “insulting a public servant, violating a lawful order, threats, and any other crimes resulting from his behavior.”
Attorney Hassan Jabareen, who was one of the people representing the detainees, said the demonstration in Haifa was not “illegitimate” as the authorities are implying.
“The law does not require a permit for this [type of] protest,” he said. “It was illegal for the police to dismantle it.”
Ahmad Tibi, an Arab-Israeli politician and leader of the Arab Movement for Change, also said the arrests were politically motivated and the riot police only came because they saw Palestinian flags and symbols.
Joseph Atrash, a protester, said the police “were more violent than usual,” claiming he believed the officers were trying to send the demonstrators a message.
The demonstration on Friday was the third one to take place in Haifa and the police employed violent tactics to curb them. Most of the 300 protesters were Palestinian citizens of Israel but two of the 21 arrested were Jewish Israelis.
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