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18-year-old anti-overhaul protester beat up by cops freed after 3rd police grilling

Amitai Aboudi, an 18-year-old protester against the government’s judicial overhaul who was allegedly assaulted by a police officer at a protest last week, was released Tuesday from police questioning for the third time amidst protests outside the organization’s Tel Aviv headquarters against interrogations of high-profile demonstrators.

Last week, chief of the Tel Aviv police’s Yasam special patrol unit, Yair Hanuna, was seen in widely circulated images punching Aboudi after the 18-year-old had already been handcuffed.

In a video of Aboudi’s arrest, he is seen being hit and dragged by a group of police officers on the Ayalon Highway in Tel Aviv. In a photo of the incident, Hanuna can be seen apparently smiling while allegedly hitting Aboudi. Police have denied that Hanuna hit the teen after he was subdued.

Police have accused Aboudi of trying to interfere with officers’ attempts to clear protesters from the Ayalon Highway after the government passed the first piece of legislation in its contentious judicial overhaul package.

Aboudi’s family filed a complaint against Hanuna with the Justice Ministry’s Police Internal Investigations Department (PIID) after the incident.

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Hanuna and four other officers were summoned on Monday for questioning by PIID investigators over allegations they used excessive force against protesters opposed to the government’s judicial overhaul. Around 30 demonstrators sought medical treatment after the protest.

פרסום: מפקד יס"מ תל אביב, סנ"צ יאיר חנונה, קיבל מסרים והחליט לצאת לחופשה מתפקידו. לא ברור האם ומתי יחזור אבל יש לי תחושה שהמפגינים לא יתגעגעו @N12News pic.twitter.com/VTDmJe9OVI

— יוסי מזרחי Yossi Mizrachi (@yosimiz1) July 30, 2023

Hanuna and the other officers are suspected of beating protesters in three separate incidents in Tel Aviv, Channel 12 news reported.

Multiple complaints by protesters have been filed against Hanuna, with allegations including that he broke a demonstrator’s nose at a rally about two weeks ago in Tel Aviv. Hanuna and the other four officers are set to be questioned again at PIID headquarters in Tel Aviv on Wednesday.

The officers involved were not wearing bodycams at the time of the arrest, in contravention of regulations, the Kan public broadcaster reported.

Police have defended officers’ conduct during the protests. National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir has backed up the officers, saying the PIID is trying to “threaten the Yasam commander of Tel Aviv, an outstanding officer, only because he acted to enforce the law with determination.”

Protesters arrived outside the station Tuesday to demonstrate against the summoning of Aboudi and Moshe Radman, the leader of the tech industry’s anti-overhaul protest group, to the station. Radman said he was initially not told why he was called in.

One protester was arrested for allegedly attacking and injuring a police officer, police said. The officer received treatment for his hand at the scene. Three others were arrested for making noise above a level considered reasonable, police said in a statement. Demonstration organizers said that Ami Dror, a protest leader, was arrested by police while standing on the side of the demonstration.

The Brothers in Arms protest group later announced that all those arrested were released.

Former prime minister Ehud Olmert (bottom right) and a woman holding a sign saying ‘Policeman, Friend, What does the conscience say?’ in front of Shalma police station, Tel Aviv, August 1, 2023. (Credit: @sha_b_p)

According to the police, the protesters caused “unreasonable noise” above the legal limit while refusing to stop or give up their equipment, preventing the police from providing service.

Kan reported Tuesday evening that the police were implementing a new set of rules to deal with “unreasonable noise” during protests, which could be utilized anywhere and at any time.