Police Ordered to Compensate Sheikh Jarrah Activists

Monday, 11 April 2011 13:26 Tania Kepler for the Alternative Information Center

A Jerusalem court judge ruled Sunday, 10 April, that the Jerusalem police will be required to pay damages to four Israeli activists for arresting them without just cause.

 

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Sara Benninga, Dorit Argo, Matan Edelman and Tzvi Benninga, all members of the Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity Movement, were arrested in February while protesting in front of the Jerusalem City Hall against the approval of settler building plans in Sheikh Jarrah.

After arresting the four protesters at the demonstration, the police wanted to release them only under the condition that they be banned from participating in protests in Jerusalem for six months. Judge Chaim Li-Ran dismissed the request the day of the arrest, said the demonstration was indeed legal, and the four were released unconditionally.

Lawyer Leah Tzemel, who represented the four activists, demanded compensation for the arrests, which the activists described as illegal.

On Sunday Judge Chaim Li-Ran ruled the police would be required to pay the activists a total compensation of NIS 25,000 (about $7,265), including legal expenses.

“The right to demonstrate or express an opinion is deeply rooted in the foundations of a democracy. It is the very air we breathe, and on its altar thousands of people have paid, and continue to pay, with their lives,” wrote Judge Chaim Li-Ran in his decision.

“Therefore a society that aspires to be democratic must be extra-watchful with its emissaries, who are charged with protecting civil rights, for fear they will harm these rights,” Li-Ran wrote. “They must be very careful when they trespass in this area and walk there on tippy-toes, as if walking on eggs.”

“And here it turns out that in spite of everything the court has said, the police are trigger-happy with their arrests in general, and with certain groups in particular,” Li-Ran continued.

The judge also criticized the police request to prevent the activists from participating in future demonstrations. “This is a worrying condition which I fear is actually an attempt to constrain freedom of expression.”

A Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity Movement official said the judge’s ruling “proves our claims of political bias the police operates by in east Jerusalem. We hope the courts continue to block the Jerusalem police’s attempts to put an end to politically legitimate activity of Jews and Arabs by using false arrests, harassment and intimidation.”

“The Solidarity Movement will continue to fight for justice and equality for all, Arabs and Jews.

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