Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court revealed Tuesday that police officers lied while testifying against 11 left-wing activists accused of violent acts during anti-fence demonstrations in the West Bank village of Bil’in. The court acquitted the activists.
The presiding judge viewed video footage filmed by both police officers and members of the group “Anarchists Against the Fence” that did not bear evidence of violent acts.
Judge Muki Landman harshly criticized the police’s behavior in his ruling.
“A feeling of serious discomfort has arisen from the mighty gap between the officers’ testimony and what is seen in the video tapes,” Landman wrote. “I cannot rule out the possibility that had it not been for the videotapes, I would have reached a different result regarding the defendants.”
The 11 activists were indicted following a demonstration in February 2004, on the day the International Court of Justice in The Hague began deliberations on the West Bank separation fence.
The activists sought to protest against the fence in the West Bank but later moved their demonstration to a location opposite the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv. The activists sat on the road, causing severe traffic snarls.
The prosecution filed serious charges against the activists that included charges of violent unruliness and of interfering with police officers. An additional indictment of attacking a police officer was erased from the charge sheet before a verdict was issued.
Landman rejected the majority of the prosecution’s claims but also rejected claims made by the activists that police officers acted violently when breaking up the protest. Landman also rejected the defendants’ claims that their behavior was protected by international law as a legitimate means of opposing the occupation and the separation fence.
The judge convicted nine of the 11 activists on a minor charge of illegal congregation. Two others were convicted of vandalism after spray painting graffiti on the walls of the Kirya defense compound in central Tel Aviv.
Sentencing is scheduled for February 2007.
Yonatan Pollack, an activist in the organization [Anarchists Against the Wall], said that for him the acquittal is merely technical, and expressed disappointment from the fact that the court did not address the topics they [the activists] tried to bring up, such as the occupation and the wall. “The essence of the trial was not the accusations against us but rather the conduct of the state of Israel in the Occupied Territories. The court chose to ignore the fact that the construction of a wall is not just a political issue but also a legal one.”