Police grill Jewish extremists over incitement to racial hatred
Bentzi Gopstein and Baruch Marzel released under restrictions after questioning over social media posts, days after Shin Bet head warns of increasingly violent public discourse; suspects slam probe as 'political persecution'
Days after Shin Bet chief Nadav Argaman warned against violent discourse in the political sphere, police on Wednesday questioned Jewish extremists Bentzi Gopstein and Baruch Marzel on suspicion of incitement to racial hatred over posts the two published on social media.
The two were freed under restrictions following questioning at the Lod headquarters of the Lahav 433 unit, known as the "Israeli FBI."
Lahav's National Cyber Crime Unit has been closely following Gopstein and Marzel, who have both been arrested several times in the past.
Gopstein is the head of the extremist anti-coexistence group Lehava. Both he and Marzel have been previously banned from running for the Knesset as part of the extremist Otzma Yehudit (Jewish Power) party.
Gopstein and Marzel slammed the investigation as "political persecution."
"This is a severely politically motivated investigation," Marzel said. "I will gladly go to court and be tried for the ridiculous allegations against me."
Argaman issued a rare warning Saturday that public discourse could lead violence, amid one of the most politically charged periods in decades with the country on the verge of unseating Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after 12 years.
"We have recently identified a rise in increasingly extreme violent and inciteful discourse particularly on social networks," Argaman said in a statement without mentioning any names.
"This discourse may be interpreted among certain groups or individuals, as one that permits violent and illegal activity that may even cause physical harm," he said.