Thursday, October 29, 2009

Gag Order Is Gagging Some Bloggers

I first commented on this matter at my Hebrew-language blog and also here.


Media blackout in Israel as government secretly arrests conservative activists

JERUSALEM — Israeli authorities have launched a secret arrest campaign against the right-wing opposition on charges that are subject to change and sometimes unspecified.

Those arrested were warned not to report their detention, and the media have been banned from reporting developments.

"I don't know anything," attorney Adi Kedar, who has been defending several of the detainees, said. "All the material is classified and only the judges know."

Critics said the campaign was meant to discredit the growing Jewish opposition to the government policy of freezing Jewish construction in the West Bank and dismantling communities deemed illegal.

Israel's military, police and internal security agents [ISA] [actually, that should be GSS=General Security Services] have conducted raids of the homes of suspected right-wing activists in the West Bank.

The campaign, said to be linked with a military plan to dismantle dozens of Jewish communities in the West Bank, began with the arrest of a former U.S. Marine on Oct. 7. Authorities obtained a court order to ban publication of his arrest and remove all references to the detention on Israeli news websites.

The Israel Security Agency has held the former Marine incommunicado since his arrest, and the court ordered a three-week ban on publication. Statements by prominent Israelis on the arrest were also prevented from being published.

Two weeks later, the Israel Security Agency, accompanied by police and army units, arrested other Jews opposed to the government policy to evacuate Jewish communities in the West Bank.

The wife of the Marine was stopped as she was driving to attend a court appearance by her husband on Oct. 21. The hearing in front of Judge Noga Arad in Petah Tikva was held in-camera, with a defense attorney in attendance.

Legal sources close to the campaign said defense attorneys have not been informed of the exact charges or evidence against their clients. The sources said the Supreme Court has rejected an appeal to release evidence or submit formal charges.

"In the past, they used this [ban on meeting with legal counsel] mostly against terrorists, but there were a few Jews who were not permitted to meet with an attorney about six or seven years ago in the case of the non-existent Jewish underground," Kedar said. "They were about 10 people who were detained for a month and later released without any charges."

Kedar said ISA usually cites national security for denying detainees access to their attorneys. He said the main reason was to isolate Jewish dissidents.

"In my opinion, the main reason is to break the person," Kedar said. "To the courts they say other things but in my eyes, the sole aim is to break the person. In the past, this has proven itself as unnecessary."

On Oct. 22, two other Jewish residents of the West Bank were arrested from the Jewish community of ____ ____ in the West Bank. About 60 soldiers, police and ISA agents stormed a mobile home of a 23-year-old, blindfolded and interrogated him in a secret facility for 12 hours without food and water.

The 23-year-old suspect, who without a court order was forced to sign a 10,000 shekel bond and relinquish his passport, was accused of being involved in a series of unresolved murders of West Bank Arabs from the 1990s. One of the killings took place in 1997 when the suspect was 10.

The sources said authorities have repeatedly revised their charges against the detainees. They said the ex-Marine was first accused of killing two gay youths in August 2009, and then blamed for the killing of Arabs in the 1990s and early 2000s.

The 23-year-old suspect was at first presented with a court order that accused him of murder, the sources said. Later that day, the order was revised and accused him of conspiracy.

The critics said the arrests were timed to the memorial of the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995. An Orthodox Jew and former ISA staffer has been serving a life sentence for the killing.

"Every year this time, there are rumors of a Jewish underground in time for the Rabin festival," Arieh Yitzhaki, a military historian and regarded as a leading critic of the government, said. "They've accused him [the Marine] of every unsolved murder that ever occurred."

ISA has recruited some of the major Israeli dailies in the campaign against right-wing Jewish dissidents. The Maariv daily has published an article of unsolved cases of the killing of Arabs in the West Bank attributed to Jewish settlers.

"The Shabak [ISA] decided that these are acts of settlers, despite that fact that the police said they are examining all avenues of investigations," Yitzhaki said. "And of course, there are the draconian administrative expulsion orders."

In early October, the army served six-month expulsion orders to three Jews who live in the West Bank. None of them was charged with a crime, but security officials said they threatened the security of the state.

Israeli attorneys involved in defending right-wing dissidents said the election of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has not changed policy toward the Jewish settlement movement in the West Bank. They said Jewish communities deemed unauthorized have been raided and sometimes dismantled on a weekly basis.

Prosecutors have succeeded in reversing lower-court decisions to free right-wing dissidents, the attorneys said. In Israel, the prosecution as well as the defense has the right to appeal court verdicts.

Major Israel human rights organizations have refused to represent or speak out against the campaign. Many of the major organizations, particularly the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, receive funding from both the government and Western sources.

"Until now we weren't approached by either the person or his attorney," ACRI spokeswoman Nirit Moskowitz said. "Unfortunately, this [violation of the right to legal counsel] does happen, mostly to Palestinians."

Ms. Moskowitz said that the case of the former Marine is an absolute violation of civil and legal rights.

"This [denial of an attorney] is definitely prohibited," Ms. Moskowitz said. "This is against the law."

1 comment:

Kae Gregory said...

Sounds like someone certainly needs to be in jail.