SDEROT, Israel - In unusually sharp criticism of Israel Police forces, a Magistrate Court judge ordered the immediate release of people arrested during a protest march in Sderot on Sunday morning.
Some 400 Israelis had gathered in the southern city of Sderot to protest the government's 2005 pullout from the Gush Katif Settlement Bloc in the Gaza Strip.
Police blocked the march to the Gaza border, detaining 20 of the participants, including children.
Police brought seven of the detainees to court for refusing to sign an order, which would have prevented them from visiting Gaza vicinity communities, including Sderot.
"The use of power and detention authority in order to avert this right of expression, beyond consulting a case of silencing others, indicates the arrival of very dark times across the State of Israel," Kiryat Gat Magistrate Court judge Nehama Netzer said.
The judge, who stressed that freedom to protest was an inalienable right of all Israelis, refuted police explanations for their actions.
"It is unimaginable that the accused, whose only sin was being in Sderot or planning to reach Sderot, will be held, arrested and possible detained for another night just because of their desire to protest," the judge said.
"It appears that the answer to that is clear and woe on us if we reach days in which people are scared to legally express their views, even through a protest or taking part in a legal protest," she said.
The judge also responded to police testimony that intelligence information provided by the Shin Bet (General Security Agency) factored into the arrests.
"It appears that the utilization of the authority to hold up and detain suspects was only meant to ensure that the accused won't be able to exercise their right to demonstrate and express their legal and legitimate right to protest," the judge continued.
"I regret the fact that at the end of the day and as a result of the way things were done, the police got what they wanted and the accused were shunned of their legal right to protest and express themselves," she said.
The judge ordered the immediate release of all detainees, stating that the arrests were unreasonable and disproportionate.
Source: YNet news