Israel Detains Dozens of Eritrean Asylum Seekers Without Trial

12:00 Sep 4 2023 Tel Aviv (תל־אביב-יפו , تل أبيب - يافا )

Clashes between asylum seekers and police in south Tel Aviv, on Saturday. Credit: Moti Milrod Published by Haaretz

by Bar Peleg and Josh Breiner for Haaretz
Sep 5, 2023 11:12 am IDT

More than 50 Eritreans suspected of involvement in Saturday's Tel Aviv riots are being transferred to a prison in central Israel on Tuesday without appearing before a judge.

This move is indefinite and does not obligate the state to provide them with legal representation. Tuesday morning, the police withdrew its request to extend the suspects' detention. Instead, they informed the courts that an administrative process regulated by the Entry into Israel Law is underway–a step that recently hasn't been used against people who have not been indicted.

Over the weekend, 52 suspects were arrested in connection with the violent riots. Legal proceedings have been initiated against 46 of them. On Monday night, police arrested a pro-Eritrean regime asylum seeker on suspicion of carrying an unlicensed firearm during the clashes on Saturday. He is set to appear in court later on Tuesday for a detention extension hearing.

Police arrested seven more on Monday night on suspicion that they were preparing for additional clashes today. Among the detainees from the weekend, approximately 14 are Eritrean regime supporters, 20 are opponents, and the rest have no clear affiliation.
Labor MK Gilad Kariv said that "Unlike Eritrea, the State of Israel is not a police state. Detention without trial is not a legitimate tool to cover up the police's incompetence as is seen in its operational and intelligence failures."

A source within the law enforcement system stated that the state does not want asylum seekers with relatively minor allegations to have a criminal record. The reason being that this could hinder their chances of leaving Israel to seek asylum in another country.

According to a source familiar with the proceedings, "the objective is to pressure them to leave Israel of their own accord."

Tel Aviv Magistrate Court judges criticized police conduct, saying that police do not provide sufficient evidence or submit police reports on the arrests.

Most suspects have had their detention extended solely because they admitted to participating in the demonstration, which later turned violent. A source involved in the investigation described it as "a complete mess."

At least 157 people were injured in the clashes on Saturday. Forty-nine of the injured are police officers while the rest are Eritrean. Nineteen are in critical condition.

The clashes began Saturday morning when opponents of the Eritrean regime vandalized an event space before a scheduled Eritrean Embassy event. Police responded with live fire and rubber bullets.
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