Judge Adi Bar-Tal released Arwah Sheikh Ali from the Shuafat refugee camp in east Jerusalem to house arrest on Sunday. The alleged criminal claimed that a Star of David symbol was branded onto his face during his arrest by police officers for drug trafficking charges.
Prior to the court hearing, Attorney Akram Abu-Libdeh from the Public Defenders Office, representing the suspect, argued that contrary to the court's decision that a doctor would examine the suspect, police left him in a holding cell instead of transferring him to a proper facility.
The judge justified the suspect’s release by pointing out the police's misconduct since the suspect was held in police custody for four days, and was only transferred to a detention center on Saturday.
According to Bar-Tal, there was hardly any significant investigative action taken during this time. She also clarified that, from looking at images of the suspect, "It’s evident the detention was accompanied with the use of severe violence," and confirmed the man hadn’t seen a doctor despite the previous court's decision.
Last week, police issued an unusual response to the detainee's allegations, saying the suspect resisted his arrest, and the Star of David wound on his face was most likely caused by an "article of clothing" worn by one of the officers – specifically his shoe laces.
However, Dr. Avner Rosengarten, head of the Forensic Science Institute - a private organization providing legal expertise - said on Sunday that there was no match between the alleged shoe and laces and the mark on the suspect’s face.
“It's not this shoe, and it's not these laces. It seems that the markings were created by a metallic tool or instrument," he said.
Rosengarten explained why the shoe presented by the police did not leave an imprint resembling the Star of David: "First of all, the width of the laces is not suitable. Secondly, the laces can’t leave this kind of imprint, as the edges are bleeding; it must be a straight, solid instrument.”
“The laces also don't have the pressure and force required to create this mark, because laces are flexible and soft, and remain the same no matter how much pressure one might put into a shoe," he added.
Rosengarten clarified that he can’t definitively say that the mark on the suspect’s face is a Star of David, despite the resemblance. He emphasized that the arrangement of the markings corresponds to "a single metallic instrument that was used in a single event." He added the police were hasty in their response and rushed to issue an incorrect statement.
Attorney Danny Bar-David, deputy director of the Public Defense’s Detention Division, clarified that the arrest was conducted by a team of highly trained officers, and it's highly unusual that 16 officers chose not to activate their body cameras in order to document the operation.
The police's claim can’t be verified, as despite the involvement of 16 officers in the arrest, it was revealed in court that no body camera was active, as happened in other cases of allegations of police violence.
The mark on the suspect’s face was clearly visible during the hearing held a day after the arrest. Even if the shoe belongs to a police officer and the mark is a non-intentional Star of David, it's unclear why there would be a need to kick his face forcefully or tightly hold a shoe to it.
The police claimed that "during a court-ordered search at the suspect's home, substances suspected to be illegal drugs were found in a large quantity, with 1 kg of substances suspected as hashish, ecstasy and methadone, among others.”
“At a certain point, the suspect began resisting his arrest and violently attacked the officers. Several officers were required to complete his arrest, which was carried out legally,” they added.
The police spokesperson issued a statement about the arrest last week, saying that illegal drugs were located in the apartment - but made no mention of violent resistance by the suspect and the force that the officers had to use.
The statement also mentioned that "during the operation, stones and glass bottles were thrown at officers, leading the forces to use riot gear in response. No injuries or damage were caused."
The suspect himself claimed that during his arrest, the officers beat him all over his body and covered his face with a cloth strip. Judge Amir Shaked was alarmed by the mark on the suspect’s face and ordered the case details to be immediately transferred to the Police Internal Investigations Department (PIID).
"Due to the severe injuries on the respondent's body, I order the hearing’s protocol to be transferred to the PIID. This is an event that, without reasonable explanation, wasn’t documented by the officers’ body cameras," the judge said.