JERUSALEM (Apr. 30)
A young Labor MK, Yossi Sarid has called for a debate on recent cases of alleged police brutality. His call followed a decision by the Tel Aviv District Court to reject an accused man’s confession on the grounds that it was extracted from him by police torture. The District Court named three police officers in this connection.
There have been many allegations of police brutality over the years, but this was one of the few in which the courts accepted the allegations and acted upon them. The case came at a time when police prestige is at a low ebb because of the Rachel Heller murder case which has been attracting headlines for almost half a year. Over the weekend, police turned over their file on suspect Amos Baranes of Acre, who is expected to be charged with killing the young girl soldier late last year.
Baranes became involved in the police investigation of the murder when he was picked up after another girl complained that he had molested her. Police now believe he killed Rachel Heller after she resisted his sexual advances. But at the beginning of this year police detectives were convinced that a war invalid. Yoram Bichonsky murdered the girl, who, he said, had been his lover. The police aired this belief in public.
Bichonsky was hold in custody for 46 days, and even after he was released by a magistrate for lack of evidence, senior police officers continued to imply in public statements that he was guilty. Bichonsky’s name was thus sullied and his health suffered from his long incarceration and interrogation. With suspicion now shifted to another man, the police investigation has been thoroughly discredited.
POLICE SCORED FOR ACTIONS
There has also been adverse comment among legal writers and serious newspaper commentators on the apparent police penchant for jumping to conclusions and then trying to conform the evidence to their preconceived ideas. The public statements by police officers during the course of the murder investigation are believed by many observers here to have violated the most basic principle that a man is presumed innocent until proven guilty.
Sarid alluded to the Bichonsky affair in his call for a debate on police violence when he said: “Some policemen are so keen to get their man that they throw their judgement, their responsibility and their morals to the winds….” The Superintendent of Police, Shaul Rosolio, has also spoken out against police brutality, noting that it violates the law which his men are supposed to uphold. In a speech to high school students. Rosolio said: “Whenever we uncover such acts, we take action against the policemen concerned.”