Haifa protesters released after footage of arrests shared on social media
After an overnight hearing that lasted for nine hours, an Israeli court in the northern city of Haifa ordered on Monday morning the release of 17 Palestinian citizens of Israel and two Israeli protesters, who were arrested during a demonstration on Friday.
Twelve of the 19 protesters - who were demonstrating against the killing of 62 Palestinians in Gaza by Israeli troops early last week - were released immediately, and seven were released later in the day.
'Israeli police's insistence to oppress the demonstration reminds us of dictatorships in the world' - Jafar Farah, human rights activist
Hassan Jabareen, the attorney who represented the arrested protesters, said in a statement: "We succeeded to turn the courtroom from a space used against protestors into a space where police violence was exposed and rejected."
Jabareen added that social media played a crucial role in convincing the court to accept that the Israeli police used violence against the protesters.
Social media users widely shared photos and videos of Israeli police brutality during the demonstrators' arrests.
"This shift was possible due to social media, due to all of the videos, photos and testimonies that were posted by the people that told the true story of what happened on Friday night.
It was this documentation that convinced the court that it could not condone such brutal behaviour by the police."
Jafar Farah, a human rights activist and the head of Mossawa Advocacy Center, was among those released. He was arrested along with his son, Bisan, and his nephew, Majd.
Farah was hospitalised for urgent care following his arrest on Friday night.
He told the court that he was beaten while in custody in a Haifa police station, breaking his knee. He arrived at the first court hearing on Saturday on crutches. Footage of Farah walking to the Friday protest shows he had no such issues before the demonstration.
He described his release in a video statement as "a slap on the police's face."
"It is time for the Israeli police to educate its policemen to respect the right of free speech and not to oppress people.
What happened here in the last two days in Haifa is a disgrace to any democratic regime. It is inconceivable that people go out and protest and they are oppressed in such a way - physically harmed, beaten, humiliated," Farah said.
He added in another video that the "Israeli police's insistence on oppressing the demonstration reminds us of dictatorships in the world".
Translation: Jafar Farah, the head of Mossawa, the Advocacy Center for Arab Citizens in Israel, after his release: Israeli police's insistence on oppressing the demonstration reminds us of dictatorships in the world.
Israeli newspaper Haaretz said that the police's preliminary investigation did not find any link between Farah’s arrest and his injury.
"Despite attempts to spread rumours and cast aspersions on the actions of policemen at the scene the investigation so far has shown that there was nothing extraordinary linking the injury of one of the demonstrators to his arrest,” the police said in a statement.
On Sunday evening, hundreds of people protested outside the court in Haifa, waving Palestinian flags and calling for the imprisoned protesters' freedom.