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Report: Israel releases settler accused of stone throwing for 'lack of evidence'

April 17, 2017 10:58 P.M. (Updated: April 18, 2017 12:19 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Israeli authorities have released an Israeli settler who had been arrested on suspicion of throwing stones at Israeli soldiers, according to a Monday report from Israeli news daily Haaretz.

According to Haaretz, the incident, which was recorded on video and released by Israeli police on Saturday, took place near the illegal Israeli Baladim outpost in the central occupied West Bank.

The video shows several Israeli youths throwing stones at an Israeli army vehicle driving near the outpost. The 18-year-old settler, a resident of the illegal Beit El settlement in the Ramallah district, was arrested on Saturday after the video made its way around social media and news websites.

According to Haaretz, right-wing legal aid organization Honenu said that the teen was “unjustly arrested since videos and photographs taken on a family trip show he was not in the area of the incident when it occurred,” repeating claims made by the teen during his interrogation.

Jerusalem’s Magistrate Court ordered the teen’s release on Saturday while imposing restrictions on his movement. Haaretz reported that the teen’s father was also questioned regarding his son’s claims, with the court stating that if the father’s alibi was corroborated, the restrictions on the teen’s movement would be lifted.

The restrictions were lifted on Sunday “after police failed to provide evidence that would warrant maintaining them,” Haaretz said, adding that “police said that the suspicions had not been completely dismissed but the teen's release indicates that their evidence is weak. No other arrests have been made so far, although the police say that they are pending.”

An Israeli police spokesperson was not immediately available for comment.

Meanwhile, Israeli authorities have dramatically escalated their crackdown on Palestinian youth who are caught throwing rocks at Israeli soldiers, detaining hundreds of Palestinians for alleged stone throwing every year.

Israeli rights group B'Tselem reported that from 2005 to 2010, "93 percent of the minors convicted of stone throwing were given a prison sentence, its length ranging from a few days to 20 months."

Palestinian stone throwers face harsh penalties by Israeli authorities, with Israel passing laws in 2015 allowing for up to 20 years in prison if charged with throwing stones at vehicles and a minimum of three years for the act of throwing a stone at an Israeli -- legislation rights groups say was designed specifically to target Palestinians, as Israelis and settlers are rarely prosecuted under the same standards of the law.

A Palestinian youth was sentenced to 18 years in prison in January for allegedly throwing a rock at an Israeli vehicle -- representing the harshest sentence ever handed down for stone throwing.

Palestinians have claimed that rock throwing by teenagers represents a natural reaction to the frustrations caused by the nearly half-century Israeli military occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, which has been shaped by everyday forms of violence, such as nightly military raids into Palestinian communities, arbitrary detentions, home demolitions, and frequent killings of Palestinians by Israeli forces.

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