The Jerusalem Magistrate's Court ruled Thursday that leftist demonstrations in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah are not illegal as claimed by the police.
The ruling was issued during a court hearing to discuss the indictments filed against 18 protestors who were arrested in Sheikh Jarrah last Friday, after demonstrating against Jewish settlers who took over houses in the Arab neighborhood.
Justice Gad Erenberg also rejected the police's request to extend the remand of those arrested for disorderly conduct until the end of legal proceedings, but banned the defendants from taking part in any gathering or demonstrations in Sheikh Jarrah until the end of the proceedings.
The police claimed that the demonstrators were acting in an unruly fashion and that authorities had evidence and photographs to prove their claims. The protestors, on the other hand, said that they were not required to have a permit in order to hold their gathering, and therefore the police had no reason to disperse them.
Police and Demonstrators at Sheikh Jarrah (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
In his ruling, the judge wrote, "Because freedom of assembly and freedom of expression are basic rights, the police must protect those who assemble from others and not declare their gathering as illegal because they fear retaliation from others."
The judge ruled that "a gathering of 50 people or over is illegal only if it is intended as a platform to carry a speech or a lecture on a topic with a political nature, or in order to discuss such topic. As long as the gathering does not aim to do so, a permit is not required."
Despite the favorable ruling, the judge criticized the protestors' conduct and their decision to block the main road and try to prevent worshippers from passing through.
"Although all the worshippers managed to pass through, they needed to get through a mass of people who were trying to block their way," he said.
The judge also noted that according to eyewitness accounts, the protestors yelled at worshippers and even spat at one of them. From that moment on, the judge said, the gathering became illegal and therefore the arrests made afterwards were legitimate.