The police have recently begun using a major crimes unit, which normally works against organised crime to investigate leaders of the protest against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The Association for Civil Rights in Israel has warned that the police may be creating a special database with personal information about protest leaders. The police deny the allegation.
The police say they have identified the “hardcore” leadership of the protest. A senior officer said there are about 20 people in this group, most of them Tel Aviv residents with no criminal record, but some are known to the police for what it calls disturbing the peace.
Members of the central unit of the Tel Aviv district police, which is usually responsible for investigating major crimes have begun showing up regularly at protests. Protest participants have also reported that undercover police have been surveilling them elsewhere, even on days with no protests.
One activist said that as he was leaving his apartment building late at night about 10 days ago, almost a full 24 hours before a planned protest, he saw an undercover detective waiting for him. The activist began following the detective, but eventually lost him. “I waited for him by his car, he came back about half an hour later wearing different clothes, got into the car and sped off. The car was parked in front of our apartment building,” he said.
Undercover police are said to be sticking close to protest leaders during the demonstrations themselves. Shai Sadeh, a prominent protest leader said he was arrested a week ago Saturday night, after he pointed out four undercover cops and warned the other marchers and said they were “not the regular police, it’s the Tel Aviv central unit.”
A week earlier, Sadeh was arrested before the demonstration had even begun. According to Sadeh, when he came into the interrogation room he saw videos that had been shot by detectives who were following him. In one, he saw himself sitting with a friend an hour before the protest began. Sadeh said that when he was arrested, “the detective asked me why I hadn’t moved when the police patrol car was driving behind me. He showed me a video where I’m walking ahead of the patrol car. I asked him how he could know from this that I didn’t move. He said that’s what he read in the file. That’s why they arrested me.”
The police responded: “As part of the police preparations to deal with mass-participation events and in keeping with the operational assessment ahead of these events, the police use a variety of means and units to maintain the law, public order and security.”
Activists say they have seen increased incidences of confiscation of protesters’ cellphones after their arrest. The police need a warrant to look at a citizen’s cellphone, but protesters believe that the police are misusing information from their phones.
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