High Court Won’t Let Government Off Protest Hook

High Court of Israel. (israeltourism)

The government notified the High Court that it would not seek to extend the ban on mass protests, and it seemed the matter was closed when the measure expired on Tuesday afternoon. But it wasn’t.

On Wednesday, the court demanded an explanation for the imposition of the ban in the first place, and questioned the Knesset’s authority to enact such a measure, especially in the absence of data showing that the large demonstrations were spreading the coronavirus.

The judges — Chief Justice Esther Hayut and Justices Hanan Melcer and Neil Hendel — said hearings on the state’s response would be held before a nine-member panel.

The Movement for Quality Government, one of the groups that filed a petition against the ban, hailed the court order.

“This is a giant and important step for democracy and the rule of law in Israel,” the watchdog said. “While politicians tried to suppress the protests, the court came and put them in their place and didn’t let them harm the freedom to protest.”

The group also called on police to cancel the fines issued to protesters for breaking lockdown rules.