“If she drank from the cooler, they wouldn’t drink after her before cleaning it with bleach,” the ex-employees said. “If she went to the bathroom, they wouldn’t go in after her. If she sat on a chair, they’d get rid of it or wipe it down. And if they walked beside her, they’d hold their noses.
Moreover, the witness said, Yurta never sat with the other workers during breaks, because she was afraid of the Ethiopian-Israeli woman. She added that the Jewish employees had even asked their Eritrean colleagues to get tested for HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
Asked why she never advised Yurta to complain, the witness said Yurta had told her she needed the job to support her family and was afraid of being fired.
The witness testified that Yurta had only struck the other woman in self-defense.
Judge Becker called the ex-employee an exceptional witness and decided to acquit Yurta immediately after hearing her testimony. He said the other two witnesses had offered conflicting testimony. He had trouble deciding who was telling the truth, but the ex-employee’s testimony tipped the balance.
This decision was aided by the alleged victim’s police statement, four days after the incident, in which she said she couldn’t stand Eritreans, Becker added.
“True, even people who speak in ways that could be construed as racist can suffer from violence,” Becker wrote. Nevertheless, he said, the story presented by the prosecution, as if the alleged victim had nothing against Yurta and the other Eritreans, was clearly undermined by her police statement.
Yurta’s public defender, Tirza Kish, said the police hadn’t made “even a minimal effort to verify her story,” and had they done so, she would have been spared an indictment. “The legal proceedings exposed the racist atmosphere from which Yurta and her friends suffered,” Kish added.