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24.11.2004 Diaspora News

`I'm pregnant, don't kill the baby'

By haaretz
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"A people hunt" and "The policeman acted like the Nazis" is how eyewitnesses described the detention of R.A., a Ghanaian, on the morning of October 28 in Tel Aviv's Kfar Shalem neighborhood. This is how Dafna, a 14-year-old, described what she saw in a letter sent to the newspapers: "On Thursday morning the sounds of frightening screams coming from the street woke me up. When we looked out the window we saw a heartbreaking scene.

A regular-looking guy grabbed and was hitting a young African woman who screamed, shouted and begged him in English to leave her alone because she is pregnant and is afraid of losing her baby. With great difficulty she struggled with him but it was pointless. He was bigger and stronger than her. He pushed her to the floor and she kept on shouting at him to leave her alone, that she'd already lost one baby in the past. The policeman totally ignored her words and continued acting violently toward her in an attempt to control her."

Dafna's 10-year-old sister also witnessed the incident, and sent a description to a children's newspaper. The mother of the sisters who witnessed the incident, Leah Ahdut, says the letters were a form of therapy for her daughters, who were shocked by what they had seen and had a hard time calming down and functioning. The younger daughter told her teacher and class what she saw that morning, and had to make do with the teacher's laconic reaction that "it's really sad."

"We woke up to the sounds of shouts in English, `I am pregnant, don't kill my baby'," Ahdut related. The shouts also woke other neighbors. Some of them watched the evolving drama on the street from their windows, while others went down in their pajamas to try and help the woman.

"The man who was dressed in civilian clothes pushed the woman against a car with such force that it got dented. She fell down and lay on the ground with her head on the sidewalk and her body in the street. I went down and shouted at the policeman, `What did she do? What did she do? After all, this person went to work,' but he seemed nervous as if he was going to hit her in another minute. He said that she'd run away from him and he was chasing her."

Ahdut contacted Haaretz last week after reading a report on a diplomat from the Ghanaian Embassy who accused the immigration police of using violence against foreign laborers who are in Israel illegally, and said that on more than one occasion the violence had led to miscarriages, broken limbs and trauma.

Frederick Ophori, the No. 3 official at the Ghanaian Embassy, was referring to the case of a Ghanaian citizen, R.A., who was arrested in late October and claimed that the force used against her led to the loss of the baby she was carrying.

Ahdut said that she, her family and her neighbors witnessed the arrest of R.A., and agreed to get several neighbors together in her apartment so they could relate what they had seen. The testimony of Ahdut and her neighbors will help the police internal investigation unit look into the complaint filed against the policemen - whose names Ahdut has - by R.A. and the Hotline for Migrant Workers. It will also help the Knesset Committee on Foreign Laborers, which has been trying to investigate complaints from foreigners of police brutality. There will be a discussion on the matter tomorrow arranged by the committee's chairman, MK Ran Cohen (Yahad).

A neighbor who watched from the window with her two daughters as she got ready to leave for work related that she was shocked to see a policeman in uniform sprinting up from the end of the street and leaping over a car, just like in the movies.

"I thought he was chasing a criminal," the neighbor said. "But then I saw that he was also approaching the woman. I was afraid she'd bang her head against the sidewalk. I shouted to him that he was behaving like the Nazis. She resisted the whole time, like a wounded animal."

Ahdut's husband said the incident reminded him of descriptions of the actions against Jews in Nazi Germany. He said that Ahdut's brother, the owner of a shop on Ben Yehuda Street in Tel Aviv, often hides foreign laborers in his shop while they wait for a bus, and lets them out only when the bus arrives at the stop.

The entire time, a policeman in civilian clothes stood with his legs astride over R.A. and finally managed to handcuff her, while she complained that he was hurting her arm. A policewoman who arrived a short time later took her name and other information, and in the meantime the neighbors brought R.A. water and tried to calm her down. After 15 minutes, she was dragged to a white commercial vehicle with civilian license plates and taken away, the neighbors said.

"I couldn't do a thing other than give her a glass of water," said Ahdut's daughter. "I couldn't spare her the fear, humiliation and pain. What's a person to do when he witnesses something so terrible?"

Ahdut and her family calmed down when they heard that R.A. was not pregnant - she apparently thought she was pregnant as she was undergoing fertility treatment - but were sad to hear that she was expelled from Israel.

Chief Superintendent Rafi Levy, the immigration police spokesman, said in response that the police took R.A. for tests and the results showed she was not pregnant. However, he added, "there is no doubt that the new information necessitates an inquiry by the police internal affairs unit to clarify the circumstances of the incident."

The Hotline for Migrant Workers expressed hope that it would be possible to bring the woman back here from Ghana so that she could testify against the policemen, if an indictment is issued against them.

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