On 12 Sept. 2012, Israeli military court judge, Maj. Daniel Kfir unconditionally released ‘Abd al-’Aziz Fakhouri, a young Palestinian man who was arrested almost a month ago in Hebron by soldiers out of uniform. The judge made the ruling after watching two videos. The first video was broadcast in the Israeli media, and the second was recently uncovered by B'Tselem. The judged ruled that the videos prove that the arrest was groundless, in contrast to an official IDF spokesperson announcement.
The release decision states:
"As is clearly seen in the video, the respondent [Fakhuri, s.m.] was assaulted by a soldier ostensibly, dressed in civilian clothing, through no fault of his own, because he (the soldier) thought the respondent spoke ill of him. Much has been said of the boundaries of power and the limitations of power and this is a case of unreasonable use of power by soldiers in civilian clothing, while it is unclear whether they even had the authority to remove the respondent from the scene and to detain him".
The event occurred on the 14.08.2012 in Tel Rumeida in Hebron. A video filmed by a foreign citizen depicts soldiers from the Shaham battalion of the Nahal brigade, during a fitness exercise, violently dragging the young man into a stairwell near the checkpoint, with some of them even kicking him. Video documentation of the incident was published by the Israeli media.
In response to publication of this video clip, the IDF Spokesperson announced: “The clip does not show the entire sequence of events. Yesterday during a routine security check in Hebron, the Palestinian refused to identify himself. The Palestinian confronted the IDF force on the scene, which is not shown in the clip, and the soldiers in question, who chanced on the scene, aided the force in performing its mission.”
However, another video clip obtained by B’Tselem, showing the minutes prior to the arrest and the verbal exchange not documented on the first video clip, presents a picture that contradicts the military's account. Filmed by another Palestinian bystander using his cellphone, this clip shows that ‘Abd al-’Aziz Fakhouri did not confront the soldiers at all, but rather was speaking in Arabic to his brother, whereupon one of the soldiers accused him, wrongly, of having cursed him. The soldiers violently arrested Fakhouri despite the fact that he tried to explain that what he said was not directed at them.
The new video:
The documentation reinforces testimony taken by B’Tselem, immediately after publication of the first video clip, from 'Asil Fakhouri, the detained man’s brother. 'Asil Fakhouri relates that he was standing with his brother, ‘Abd al-’Aziz, and three foreign citizens at the checkpoint, while soldiers wearing shorts and t-shirts were training nearby. The soldiers detained a young Palestinian who sought to cross the checkpoint, and took him into the entryway of a nearby home. The Fakhouri brothers and the foreign citizens approached the checkpoint to observe and document the incident, but the soldiers blocked access and pushed the activists up the street. According to 'Asil’s testimony, his brother, who was standing next to him, said that the youth who was taken into the stairwell by the soldiers, out of sight of any eyewitnesses in the area, was surely “eating shit.” A soldier in civilian clothes who heard those words accused ‘Abd al-’Aziz Fakhouri of having cursed him, and a group of the soldiers set upon Fakhouri and arrested him.
In the clip’s audio track (at minute 1:42), ‘Abd al-’Aziz is clearly heard asking, “They took him inside? He ate shit!” The clip shows a soldier walking away from the scene who then turns around and begins walking back again, asking, “What did you say? I’m shit? Yallah, come over here! Come here!” and trying to grab ‘Abd al-’Aziz, who replies, “I’m not talking to you, not talking to you.” A group of soldiers in civilian clothes and one soldier in uniform appear within a few seconds and detain ‘Abd al-’Aziz, and some of them kick him. Meanwhile other soldiers push bystanders and photographers away from the area.
‘Abd al-’Aziz Fakhouri has been in detention since this incident. He was only released yesterday, after Adv. Neri Ramati from the Gaby Lasky law office presented the two videos to the Ofer military court. The young man who had been detained earlier at the checkpoint was apparently released after the incident and B’Tselem has been unable to identify him. B’Tselem also provided the new video to the IDF spokesperson.