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Appeal filed against former border cop’s acquittal for obstruction of justice

The Police Internal Investigations Department on Wednesday appealed against the acquittal of a former Border Police officer for obstruction of justice, in a case where she assaulted an Palestinian woman in East Jerusalem while still serving with police.

While the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court in May convicted Oriane Ben Kalifa of assaulting Hala Salim in 2021, it cleared her of the obstruction charge.

In its appeal to the Jerusalem District Court, the PIID, which is under the aegis of the Justice Ministry, argued that the lower court had “erred” and “did not give adequate weight to the fact that this is an obstruction of justice offense committed by a policewoman, who wrote a false report that led to the arrest of a female citizen.”

The PIID’s filing came two weeks after Ben Kalifa appealed to the district court against her conviction, claiming that it would “cause a decrease in deterrence” among those who do not follow police orders while a sentencing would impact law enforcers who “will not carry out their mission and will act laxly out of fear of a criminal conviction.”

Far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, who had supported Ben Kalifa and opposed her trial, railed at the PIID over the appeal, claiming it has “fallen in love with the persecution of policemen and combatants who give their lives for the State of Israel and the security of Israeli citizens.”

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Ben Gvir, whose ministry is responsible for police, said he was calling on the state prosecution “to stop pursuing a left-wing policy that does not take into consideration our soldiers and police officers.”

The PIID appeal, he charged, “is unnecessary and causes the neutering of our servicepeople.”

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir at a police event in Jerusalem, August 17, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

According to court papers, the November 4, 2021, incident happened when Ben Kalifa was stationed at a barrier checkpoint set up at the Lion’s Gate entrance to the Old City of Jerusalem. Salim, together with her brother, arrived at the barrier and asked to be let through, but Ben Kalifa refused.

Salim insisted that she needed to pass and at some point Ben Kalifa pushed her back. Amid further shoving, a brawl developed and when Salim’s brother became involved, Ben Kalifa grabbed him by his neck and shirt. Salim then tried to intervene and a physical struggle developed between her and the officer. Ben Kalifa grabbed the woman’s hijab hair covering, pulled it off, grabbed her hair and also hit her in the head and knocked her to the floor. The court found that until that point, Ben Kalifa was using physical force without authority.

Ben Kalifa then tried to lift Salim from the ground to arrest her, but Salim resisted. Other officers arrived and Salim was lifted to her feet, at which point Ben Kalifa pulled her to the nearby police station by her neck and hair. At the station, the officer roughly shoved Salim into a chair, choked her, shook her and shouted at her, despite the suspect’s repeated entreaties that she stop. The court noted that from the moment Salim was raised off the ground outside she was no longer resisting arrest and did not try to escape from the police station.

Only while the suspect was resisting arrest was the use of force against her justified.

A TV report published by the Israel Channel 13 shows an Israeli police officer violently assaulting a Palestinian girl after detaining her in Jerusalem.

The police officer called Oriane Ben Khalifa, she was accused of attacking the Palestinian in Jerusalem & taking off her hijab pic.twitter.com/gkyH9JvHGc

— V PALESTINE ???????? (@V_Palestine20) January 26, 2022

In a report on the incident, Ben Kalifa wrote that Salim had attacked her first, a claim the court deemed false. As a result, the woman was held overnight at the station on suspicion of assaulting an officer.

An indictment was filed against Ben Kalifa in January 2022.