Anti-Netanyahu demonstrators indicted for 1st time, including protest leader

For the first time, charges were filed on Tuesday against two individuals for their alleged actions at demonstrations against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier this year.

The two were indicted for attending a prohibited gathering. One was additionally indicted for interfering with a police officer in the performance of their duties and the other indicted for assaulting a police officer.

Demonstrators have been holding regular protests against Netanyahu, demanding he resign over his trial on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust. Netanyahu denies wrongdoing and claims the indictments are part of an effort by political rivals, the media, police and prosecutors to remove him from office. In addition to a central protest in Jerusalem and satellite demonstrations around the country, demonstrators regularly rally outside the Netanyahu family’s private residence in Caesarea.

Protest leader Gonen Ben Yitzhak was indicted for attending a prohibited gathering and interference with a police officer in the performance of their duties for an incident at a protest the night of July 18 in Jerusalem that turned violent as police tried to end the demonstration.

According to the indictment, Ben Yitzhak was among a number of people who did not respond to a police demand that the demonstration come to a close and continued to illegally protest and make noise. Just after midnight, the police chief ordered the use of water cannons to disperse the crowds, but Ben Yitzhak lay down underneath the cannon and held on to it in an attempt to thwart its use.

Gonen Ben Yitzhak is taken in by police during demonstrations against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on July 18, 2020 (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Police said they then had no choice but to forcibly remove Ben Yitzhak from the equipment.

At the protest in question there were complaints of police aggression toward protesters, as well as concerns about the use of water cannons at close range.

The Black Flag organization, of which Ben Yitzhak is a leader and one of its lawyers, said in a statement in response to the charges that “a black flag has been hoisted over the actions of the Netanyahu police.”

The second indictment was filed against protestor Bar Binyamin, for aggravated assault on a police officer and attending a prohibited gathering at a protest in Jerusalem that began the evening of September 20.

According to the indictment, that protest also continued beyond the permitted hour and demonstrators were informed by police that they needed to clear the area.

Some 40 minutes after midnight, police began evacuating the protesters who did not obey the order and continued to block the streets in the area around the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem.

One of the police officers approached Binyamin and asked her to leave the area, but according to the indictment, she refused. Binyamin was informed that if she did not move, the officer would have no choice but to remove her by force.

The indictment said that Binyamin again refused and the officer began to move her from the road, but when he placed his hand on her back, she turned to him and sprayed his face with pepper spray, then tried to flee the scene.

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