The Court: “Investigative Fiasco” – A victory for a Solidarity Activist. A day of judgment for the Police.

Solidarity in Silwan. Photo by: Oren Ziv, Activestills.

After more than two years of struggle and almost 200 arrests, today the first court case  involving an activist from the Solidarity Movement came to a end: Dorit Argo was cleared of all charges, and the Police received a strong reprimand.

Dorit Argo, a Solidarity Activist, today was cleared of all charges in what was the first case to make its way through the court system, out of around 70 indictments filed against Solidarity Activists over the course of the struggle against Jewish settlement in East Jerusalem over last few years. The Solidarity Movement, which became known following its successes in curbing the spread of settlements in the neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, is active throughout East Jerusalem, including in Silwan, a neighborhood known as a point of tension between settlers, police and Palestinians. Argo was arrested during a demonstration against of the settler movement in Silwan, let by a group called ELAD, which is in charge of the tourist site of the “City of David.” Argo, who was indicted for “public disturbance” and “attacking police officers” was cleared of all charges by Judge Shimon Stein in Beit Misphat HaShalom in Jerusalem.

Along with the clearance, the court ruled that the arrest itself was carried out in a way that did not align with the law and that Argo’s “arrest in such circumstances would even have allowed her to resist arrest with reasonable force,” despite the fact that “it has been proven that the defendant was escorted away by the police without resisting.” As such, Judge Stein ruled that “this is a case of investigative fiasco” and he even hinted that a number of the police officers did not tell the truth in their testimonies. Throughout the discussion, the officer that carried out the arrest claimed that Ms. Argo resisted arrest violently and that he was forced to drag her from the place by force. After video was presented to the court in which Argo was seen responding to the officer’s approach and allowing herself to be escorted to the police car without any form of resistance, the officer was forced to go back on his testimony. Moreover, the other charges of attacking and threatening police officers were discarded by the court after they were contradicted by the testimonies of other officers and by other evidence. Thus, for example, the Judge ruled that “the claim that the defendant took part in tearing Officer Assad’s trousers was contradicted by Officer Assad’s own testimony.”

Judge Stein dealt at length with the issue of freedom of expression and the demonstration, and ruled categorically that the actions of the police amount to a violation of the legal rights of the demonstrators and that the police does not respect their rights to make their voices heard. The police, according to Judge Stein, acted improperly in trying to “silence the voices of the demonstrators.”

The victory today confirms our claims over the past to years that the Jerusalem police’s law enforcement practice is discriminatory, and affirms the needs for the police to conduct serious self-examination and indeed for an overhaul in basic education of the police force in Jerusalem. The police would do well to cancel the remaining indictments against activists from the movement, rather than humiliate itself again in court by further exposing its biased nature, lack of professionalism and lack of commitment to truth.