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Photo: Motti Kimchi
Eldad Yaniv and Meni Naftali embrace in court
Photo: Motti Kimchi
Naftali and Yaniv reach agreement with police, released from custody
Meni Naftali and Eldad Yaniv, two of the organizers of recent protests in front of AG Avichai Mandelblit's house in Petah Tikva, have been released after promising to stay away from protests; political system reacts to case, former AG Ben-Yair: 'AG should protect public interest, not interfere with protests.'
In a remand hearing that took place Sunday afternoon at the Petah Tikva Magistrates' Court, the state and Eldad Yaniv and Meni Naftali reached an agreement. Naftali and Yaniv, who seemed to be in high spirits when they arrived to the hearing, won't use social networks to call or encourage people to arrive at the Petah Tikva protests, which thus far have taken place without a police permit, until next Sunday.

 

 

In return, the two will be released without a cash deposit, restraining orders from the area of the demonstrations in the city or self-bail.

 

Eldad Yaniv and Meni Naftali talk to reporters in court sunday afternoon (Photo: Motti Kimchi) (Photo: Motti Kimchi)
Eldad Yaniv and Meni Naftali talk to reporters in court sunday afternoon (Photo: Motti Kimchi)

 

It was the 40th demonstration to take place near the residence of Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit in the Kfar Ganim neighborhood of Petah Tikva protesting the supposed lag in dealing with the cases pending against the prime minister and his wife.

 

While the demonstrations have been taking place without a permit, police have allowed them so long as no disturbances of the peace occurred and protestors didn't march towards the home of AG Mandelblit.

 

The neighborhood's residents, however, were disturbed by the demonstrations and appealed to the Supreme Court claiming they were harming their quality of life, asking the court to stop further protests.

 

The Supreme Court made no such ruling, but police nevertheless alerted protestors to the fact that should they choose to hold the demonstration at an alternate location, they must appeal for the requites permit with the local police station, in which case the request will be considered "affirmatively and specifically," the police said.

 

One of the many protests taking place in Petah Tikva near AG Mandelblit's house (Photo: Raanan Ben Zur) (Photo: Raanan Ben Zur)
One of the many protests taking place in Petah Tikva near AG Mandelblit's house (Photo: Raanan Ben Zur)

 

Yaniv and Naftali were arrested after calling on their thousands of Facebook friends to demonstrate in Petah Tikva, despite the police prohibiting the demonstration from taking place. These posts were considered by police, then, to be an "incitement to disturb the peace."

 

Naftali was taken in for questioning while he was in his car driving towards Goren Square, where demonstrations have taken place before. Yaniv managed to get off a tweet saying, "We're moving someplace else" before he was also detained for questioning.

 

After being released, Naftali said his arrest was undemocratic. "Police are trying to stifle the demonstrations, he said. "They wanted to bury the protest and we won't let them. It was a false arrest. They're calling the suspicion they used to arrest us 'Facebook incitement', that's not something a person should be arrested for."

 

After his own release, Yaniv said he relayed to officer he considers his arrest to be illegal and won't agree to any terms or compromise. "This is a struggle we can find no middle ground on," he said. "There's nothing more justified for an Israeli patriot than defending the country's democracy. We'll win, because we have the moral high ground."

 

Reactions from the political system have been along party lines. Chairman of the Labor Party Avi Gabbay was adamant, stating, "Citizens demonstrating and protesting against corruption aren't our problem. Corruption is, and the way to fight it doesn't include arresting protestors."

 

The Likud party, meanwhile, took a more offensive stance, saying, "The fact those demonstrations are supposedly in favor of the rule of law is a bad joke. According to depositions served to the courts, Naftali has a troublesome history including acts of violence, false statements and police complaints, whereas Daphni Leef has already called Yaniv a prominent representative of the methods of corruption."

 

Former attorney general Michael Ben-Yair, who served in the position from 1993 to 1997, also weighed in on the issue of the Petah Tikva demonstrations.

 

Attorney General Mandelblit (Photo: Alex Kolomoisky) (Photo: Alex Kolomoisky)
Attorney General Mandelblit (Photo: Alex Kolomoisky)

 

In a Facebook post, Ben-Yair expressed his unequivocal support for the protests. He found it hard to understand, he said, why any demonstrations were barred from taking place to begin with. "It's inconceivable the attorney general complained to the police on the matter," he said. "He, perhaps more than any other official, should know he must not ask for protection from the public, as one of the attorney general's roles is protecting the public interest."

 

"The attorney general is part and parcel of the executive branch," Ben-Yair further added. "That position means he's under both public and judicial scrutiny same as any other official in that branch. What happened in Petah Tikva is unthinkable. The attorney general is first among those tasked with enforcing the law. He must never avail himself, even by inaction, of any action taken by another law enforcement organ—in this case the police—against the freedom to demonstrate."

 


First published: 21.08.17, 19:00
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