The Jerusalem District Court ordered early Sunday, June 28, the unconditional release of three protesters, who remained in police custody after being arrested at a massive protest outside the residence of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday. One of the three was the leader of the protest, former air force Brigadier General Amir Haskel.
Police had sought restraining orders against Haskel and fellow protesters Gil Danieli and Saadi Ben Sheetrit that would ban them from entering Jerusalem for at least 15 days, after the three were detained during a demonstration against Netanyahu and his far-right government. However, at a late night hearing that stretched beyond midnight Saturday night, Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court judge Orna Sandler-Eitan said banning the three from Jerusalem would amount to a muzzle on free speech and ordered that they be released without conditions. Haskel said upon leaving the courtroom, hours after thousands rallied to his defense in Jerusalem and across the country: “Nobody will stop us from demonstrating, so long as we do so under the health guidelines.” He described Israeli society as a powder keg ready to explode: “If my arrest sparked something, it was worth it.”
A police representative admitted to the judge that Haskel, 66, had not been actively blocking roads, but said he had organized the protest and thus was responsible for other demonstrators doing so The demonstration was part of the ongoing “black flag” and “crime minister” anti-corruption protests against Netanyahu, who is standing trial in a series of corruption cases.
In the demonstrations on Saturday held against the arrest of Haskel and others, senior politicians taking part, including former defense minister and current MK from Yesh Atid-Telem Moshe Ya’alon, Hadash MK Ofer Cassif (Joint List) and Meretz MK Yair Golan.
MK Cassif said to the protesters “A people who oppresses another people cannot be free” and accused police of being “a tool to suppress protests against Netanyahu and his family,” adding, “we must fight against far-right government corruption, but also against annexation and occupation”. Haskel’s arrest caused further strains within the coalition, with Blue & White leader and Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz as well as his party colleague and Foreign Minister, MK Gabi Ashkenazi both speaking out against the arrest of the brigadier general in the reserves, and called for his release.