Six of the eight defendants charged with rioting during protests in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah arrived at the Jerusalem Magistrates' Court Monday for a first hearing on their case.
The indictment accuses them of rioting in an illegal protest that occurred in September.
After the hearing the defendants protested their innocence. One of them, Adi Winter, said the demonstrations were legal. "We had a moral and civil obligation to protest against the evil and injustice in the neighborhood," she said.
Attorney Gabi Lasky, who represents the activists, said, "Anyone who protests in a non-violent manner against damage to others' rights must be allowed to do so without being brought to trial."
She said the charges were a double standard, "because settlers are released in similar cases, and there was no violence in this protest".
Protest outside holding cell (Photo: Noam Moscowitz)
Lasky also criticized the police and said it had discriminated against the left-wing protestors. "The court has determined that the protest in which the defendant took part did not require a permit, in total contrast with police claims," she said.
"Despite this the police wanted to deny the defendant their freedom of speech and protestation when they came to protest continuing damage to the Palestinians in east Jerusalem in general and the residents of Sheikh Jarrah in particular."
But the prosecution claimed the indictment referred to illegal congregation, and that the police had not been discriminatory.
Before the hearing around 30 leftists gathered outside the holding cell in which the defendants were kept in order to encourage them. They called out, "Sheikh Jarrah is Palestine".
Ronen Medzini contributed to this report