The Jerusalem Magistrate's Court on Tuesday ruled to release two Jewish youths aged 13 and 14 to house arrest, after they were arrested on suspicion of being involved in a brawl with Arabs on Monday – in a case that has raised accusations of racial discrimination.
The youths, who were represented by Attorney David Halevy of the Honenu legal aid organization, were suspect of taking part in the altercation adjacent to their homes on Shivtei Yisrael Street in central Jerusalem, located to the northwest of the Old City and near Arab majority neighborhoods.
A quarrel broke out between a group of six Jewish children aged between 10 and 14 on one side, and three Arab men aged in their late 20s and 30s on the other.
Police arrested two Jews and two Arabs, but for unexplained reasons chose to unconditionally release the two Arabs who were involved in the brawl. It is suspected that one of the Arabs who was released beat one of the children with a stick and wounded him.
While the Arabs were let go, the two Jewish children were left in detainment overnight, and on Tuesday morning the police requested to extend the detention by three days.
Attorney Halevy sharply criticized the police policy, saying, "the worst thing is that the police in advance give preference to the version of the minorities. Why? No reason."
The attorney also charged the police of breaching the rights of the Jewish minors by interrogating them at 4 a.m., without any justification for doing so and in breach of the laws relating to the rights of youths.
Judge reprimands the police
The court ordered the two youths to be released to house arrest while condemning the police actions.
"The 28- and 38-year-old complainants were released on minimal conditions despite their being suspected of the same crimes, while an extension of detention is requested against the minors on claims of disruptions to the investigation," wrote the judge in the decision, noting that one of the claimed disruptions was made by the Arabs and they were still released.
In making the ruling, the judge also noted the different versions of events and the gap in ages between the two groups, as well as the fact that one of the Arabs received medical treatment at a hospital.
"The gap in ages between the two groups is very significant, as well as the (police) treatment, and I do not think the testimony on the wounding of the one (Arab) brings a conclusion that he is free of all suspicion."
Likewise the judge ruled that "the defense attorney is right in claiming that the rules of the Youth Law were not completely followed; interrogation at 4 a.m. was unnecessary and the interrogation could have taken place at 7 a.m. to allow the minors minimum rest."
Honenu, which is representing the Jewish youths, announced that it is considering a lawsuit against the police for breaching the rights of their clients.
"This is an unclear and unnecessary arrest of my clients, young minors with no criminal record," said Halevy. "The court criticized the actions of the police who breached the rights of my clients, and among other things interrogated them at four in the morning keeping them awake all night at the police station."
"The court even criticized the discrimination that was taken, when the police investigated on warning and unconditionally released the nearly 40-year-old minorities who were suspected of attacking my clients, while choosing to arrest my clients who are aged 13 and 14."