Two Palestinians released during the 2011 Gilad Schalit prisoner swap and rearrested this summer in the wake of the kidnap and murder of three Israeli teens have been sentenced to multiple life terms in prison, The Jerusalem Post has learned.
Hamza Abu Arkoub and Ashraf Rawi were sentenced on Thursday by a special IDF commission; the court decision has yet to be publicly announced.
The rearrests and the possibility of canceling pardons and the reimposing of sentences has been in the news since June. Coverage rose to a crescendo during and after the summer’s Gaza war, since Hamas has said a condition for a long-term cease-fire would be the re-release of those Schalit deal Palestinians who were rearrested.
The IDF formed a judicial commission to handle the irregular situation of considering all at once whether a group of close to 50 Palestinians released in the 2011 Schalit prisoner exchange violated the terms of their pardons.
The return of some Schalit-deal releasees to terrorism, including one who allegedly perpetrated the Passover eve murder
of police intelligence officer Ch.-Supt. Baruch Mizrahi, has proved so controversial that the Knesset has passed multiple laws to restrict future releases.
Arkoub’s conditional pardon was canceled and he was re-sentenced to serve the remainder of two life sentences and another 15 years in prison on conviction for the shooting murder of brothers Shlomo and Mordechai Odesser as they drove in their truck on July 30, 2002.
The offenses that served as the basis for the cancellation of his pardoning were contact with the enemy, usually a euphemism for Hamas or Islamic Jihad, and involvement in illegal funds transfers into the West Bank.
Rawi’s conditional pardon was canceled and he was re-sentenced to serve the remainder of two life sentences in prison on conviction for the murders of Behor Hajaj, his employer at Moshav Kfar Yavetz, in 1992, and air force St.-Sgt. Gitai Avisar, in 1993.
The offenses that served as the basis for the cancellation for his pardon were contact with the enemy and involvement in illegal funds transfers into the West Bank.
Many of the hearings on whether the Palestinians had violated their pardons were held in July, but no decisions were handed down until just after the recent wave of terrorist attacks and the stagnation in the Fatah-Hamas reconciliation process, a prerequisite to Israel-Hamas indirect talks.
As the Post reported exclusively at the time from the Judea Military Court in Ofer, the judicial committee was composed of three IDF Judea and Samaria judges with the rank of lieutenant-colonel, and the prosecution was represented, unusually, by lead Judea and Samaria Prosecutor Lt.-Col. Maurice Hirsch. Cases are usually staffed by lieutenants and captains.
Of the nearly 60 rearrested Palestinians in the military and civilian courts, more than half of the proceedings took place at the Judea Military Court, with a large number represented by defense lawyer Merav Khoury.
Khoury slammed the unusual process against the Palestinians on three central grounds.
First, Khoury implied that she is significantly handicapped in fighting for the Palestinians’ liberty, and that significant portions of the evidence, some of which might have saved the defendants from re-imprisonment, were being withheld on national security grounds.
Khoury asked that the Judea Military Court review the secret evidence in detail so that it might recommend to the IDF prosecutor to disclose some more items, saying that the Salem Military Court near Nablus had already been involved in such a process.
She quoted the High Court of Justice’s recent opinion permitting the state to re-initiate house demolitions against certain Palestinian terrorists’ families as a result of changed policy and security conditions.
While there was room for altering policy in regards to house demolitions on the basis of the interests of justice, the Schalit deal had no such qualifications and there was no basis for returning the releasees to prison if they honored the condition of their pardon, simply to punish Hamas, she said.
She questioned the state’s motivations in arresting the releasees.
“This is all about revenge,” she said.
Furthermore, Khoury contended that since a negative court decision would send the releasees back to jail for extended terms, the standard of evidence for the proceedings should be similar to in criminal cases, even though the case is an administrative proceeding about whether they honored the terms of their pardons.
Hirsch replied that the claims were misplaced, and that Khoury misjudged the special proceeding by trying to superimpose standard criminal law concepts.
The head IDF prosecutor explained that in criminal proceedings, defendants’ defenses arise from their right as individuals, including a presumption of innocence.
In contrast, he noted, all of the Palestinians under trial had already been convicted for serious security crimes and sentenced to long prison terms.
These Palestinians did not have standard criminal defenses or rights, since they were only free as a result of a pardon, and the only question before the court was whether they had violated their obligations to the state under their pardon, Hirsch said.
Most of the cases of rearrested Palestinians are similar to that of Khadar Raadi, who was accused in July of violating his pardon by joining Hamas and by receiving $10,000 to $12,000 from Hamas after his release.
Raadi addressed the court at the time in an imploring manner, saying that he was newly married and had a son since his release, and that he would never have done such things if he had intended to return to work for terrorist organizations.
Raadi did not ask for Hamas funds and did nothing to receive them, and in the past he worked for Islamic Jihad, never Hamas, Khoury said.
Accordingly, there was no basis to say he had acted for Hamas simply because he may have known that Hamas had given him a gift, she said.
Accepting such money, knowing that the source was Hamas, as well as earlier statements by Raadi at his initial trial, showed that he had never changed his ways and that he had violated his pardon and should be sent back to prison, Hirsch said.
Also in July, six east Jerusalem residents released as part of the Schalit deal were sent back to serve between 11 and 36 years in prison after a Haifa judicial committee found that they had violated the terms of their pardon.
The committee said that the state had proved that the six had committed prohibited offenses in violation of their pardons according to the administrative law standards applicable to the issue.
Despite the Haifa committee ruling months ago, the IDF committee’s first ruling did not come down until Thursday.