Friday, November 26, 2004

Israel-Palestine, Court to cancel charges against anarchist fence protesters 26/11/04

The Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court is considering canceling an indictment against 11 members of Anarchists Against the Fence, yesterday's hearing on the case indicated. At a previous hearing, on October 18, Judge Shmuel Landman suggested that the state consider withdrawing the indictment itself. Yesterday, however, the prosecution rejected this suggestion. The defendants are charged with sitting down in the middle of Tel Aviv's Kaplan Street during an unlicensed demonstration against the separation fence on February 23. They are not accused of any violence, as the prosecution erased the charge of attacking a policeman that appeared in the original indictment.

According to defense attorney Gaby Lasky, it is extremely unusual for nonviolent demonstrators to be prosecuted.

Following the October 18 hearing, Landman wrote: "The prosecution should at least consider the public interest in trying this case in general, and the charge of disturbing the peace in particular... because one of the foundations of the crime of disturbing the peace is a gathering that causes the public to feel threatened, and I am doubtful that this is the case."

Yesterday, the prosecution responded that blocking a road did make the public feel threatened. Moreover, it said, had the demonstrators requested a permit for their protest, an indictment might not have been filed; but when the police are taken unawares, the prosecution is less forgiving.

In his decision, however, Landman said that after hearing the evidence and watching a videotape of the demonstration, he reserved the right to throw out the indictment on the grounds that it did not serve the interests of justice. He also thereby rejected the prosecution's argument that only the High Court of Justice could cancel an indictment for this reason.

Anarchists Against the Fence members are also on trial in the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court for a September demonstration in the West Bank village of Burdus. The military commander responded to the demonstration by declaring the area a closed military zone, and the demonstrators broke the law by refusing to leave.

The group views both indictments as part of an ongoing government effort to deter them from their protests. This effort has also included interrogations by the Shin Bet security service and the use of rubber bullets, tear gas and even live fire against demonstrators.

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