Prosecutors have reportedly decided to close the criminal case against a driver who drove into a protester during a Tel Aviv demonstration against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
According to the Haaretz daily, law enforcement officials have chosen to not press charges after determining that they can’t rule out suspect Pini Luzon’s claim that he had felt threatened and was trying to escape the scene.
The incident, caught on film, occurred as thousands took to the streets on October 1 to protest coronavirus restrictions that had limited the weekly demonstrations over Netanyahu’s indictment on graft charges and handling of the pandemic.
As some 3,000 demonstrators had gathered in Habima Square, a car stopped and then accelerated into a group of protesters standing in the middle of a road near the protest site, before speeding away.
Dorit Zak, 51, was hit by the car and knocked to the ground, but did not require medical attention.
Luzon, 35, was arrested after fleeing the scene.
Luzon claimed he was trying to escape the area after protesters broke his car window. Footage from the scene showed protesters had indeed shattered the window, but it wasn’t clear whether it happened before or after the ramming, Haaretz reported.
“The case was closed because according to the evidence gathered, the suspect’s argument that he felt danger and escaped the scene cannot be ruled out,” prosecutors said, according to the report.
משטרת תל אביב מבצעת בשעה זו סריקות לאיתור הנהג שדרס את המפגינות. הוא ייעצר ברגע שיימצא. למי שלא בטוח שמדובר בניסיון דריסה, ראיתי בעיניי כיצד הוא מתעצבן שנאלץ להמתין שהצעידה תעבור, לוחץ על דוושת הגז ודוהר לכיוון המפגינים שבדרכו, לא מאט גם כשפוגע, ולאחר מכן טס ברמזור אדום ונמלט pic.twitter.com/XvLHFpbfzU
— עמרי מניב omri maniv (@omrimaniv) October 1, 2020
At a hearing after his arrest, Luzon said he was trying to get away from the demonstrators, not attack them.
“I got stuck in the situation and got scared. I felt surrounded and attacked in my car, so I fled the scene,” he told the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court. “I was in a storm of emotions.”
The incident came amid a rash of attacks on protesters by far-right extremists supportive of Netanyahu, but Luzon rejected accusations the incident had been politically motivated.
“I don’t even like Bibi and I don’t like politics,” he said, using Netanyahu’s nickname.
Speaking to Kan public radio at the time, Zak, 51, said she and other protesters had not been goading the drivers stuck in traffic.
“I wasn’t provoking anyone. I was just walking,” she said. “There were a lot of people there. Amid the people, there were two vehicles. The driver of one seemed impatient and from a complete standstill he hit the gas and started driving.”
“Suddenly, I had the front of a car in my stomach. I flew and fell on the road,” Zak said.
On Wednesday, Zak told Haaretz she “wasn’t surprised” by the decision.
“I wasn’t expecting [anything] but felt disappointment,” she said. “I want justice to be done. In my heart, I was hoping. My faith and hope that we are a well-managed country have been harmed.”
Zak’s lawyer Gaby Lasky reportedly intends to appeal the decision.