An Ashkelon Magistrate Court on Sunday remanded three Israeli citizens to police
custody for an additional two days who were passengers on a ship attempting to
break the Gaza blockade on the grounds that they "violated a lawful order” and
might try to obstruct the investigation.
Most of the flotilla
participants were foreigners who are in the process of being deported, but the
police representative contended that the state might bring charges against the
three Israeli citizens, Yonatan Shapira, Reut Mor and Elazar Elhanan, for
incitement to rebellion, knowingly assisting the enemy and violating a lawful
The court rejected the first two charges as a basis for detaining
the three suspects, but ultimately ordered their detention for an additional two
days on the basis of violating a lawful order plus the concern that releasing
them from custody would obstruct the investigation’s progress.
representative had asked to detain the suspects for an additional five days to
perform six different investigative actions proposed to the court in a secret
The judge decided that only two of the six investigative actions
required being in complete police custody, while the others could likely be
performed while the suspects were under house arrest or some other
The court found the lawful order violation convincing as a
partial basis for remanding the suspect to custody, since it referred to
violating legislation relating to the 2005 Gaza withdrawal and Israel’s policy
of blockading Gaza.
In its opinion, the court noted that so far the
suspects had stuck to their right to remain silent, refusing to
Those actions plus the ideological nature of the activities
they are suspected of, made the court highly concerned about obstructing the
In contrast, the court found the evidence brought in
support of the incitement to rebellion charge to be weak.
essentially dismissed the knowingly assisting the enemy charge as baseless in
light of its reading of the relevant statute as applying only to IDF
None of the suspects are currently serving in the
The court also rejected the police argument that they needed more
time to investigate based on the experience of past flotillas where all Israeli
citizens had been set free without bringing any charges.
According to the
police, the reason no charges were brought in the past was not because the
suspects were innocent, but rather because the nature of flotilla-based crimes
makes collecting evidence and conducting an investigation take longer, since
most of the events are taking place by sea, some even in international
Without extra time to investigate, the police argued that all
flotilla suspects will get away with breaking the law without charge.
court was unconvinced, stating that regardless of the challenges presented to
the court, it was still the court’s duty to review each case before it on its
own merits and it could not throw out all court precedents regarding grounds for
extending suspects’ remand simply because the police had closed a few cases
against past-flotilla suspects.
The Israel Navy on Saturday took control
of a Swedish-owned, Finnish-flagged ship carrying pro-Palestinian activists
toward Gaza, including the suspects before the court on Sunday, who were trying
to break Israel’s blockade of Gaza, and towed the vessel to
Despite earlier claims by activists that they were bringing
humanitarian supplies to Gaza, no such items were immediately found on board the
Estelle, the IDF said. But it added that it was still unloading the ship’s
But Mikael Lofgren, a spokesman for the Swedish group Ship to Gaza
that organized the voyage, told The Jerusalem Post that the vessel carried
musical instruments, theatrical equipment, wheelchairs, children’s books, 600
soccer balls and 41 tons of cement.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu
praised the IDF operation to enforce the blockade on the Gaza Strip, reiterating
that it was in keeping with international law.
The 53-meter ship set sail
in mid-June in the north of Sweden with some 20 activists aboard, Lofgren
It then spent close to three months traveling around Europe, he
said. It stopped in 20 ports, including nine in Sweden, before heading toward
Gaza on October 7, he said.
A few days ago, 10 additional activists took
a speed boat from Greece and boarded the ship on the open sea, Lofgren and Adam
Keller of Gush Shalom said. The new group included the three Israelis. Five
parliament members from Sweden, Norway, Spain and Greece also boarded the
Estelle with them, he said.
The IDF Spokesman’s Office stressed that
anyone seeking to pass on humanitarian aid to Gaza is able to do so legally at
any time via land crossings to the Strip in coordination with Israel.
July 2011, the UN’s Palmer Commission published a report on the IDF’s
interception in May 2010 of the Turkish protest flotilla, and ruled that
Israel’s security blockade on Gaza “is both legal and appropriate.”
2001, Palestinian terrorists in Gaza have fired more than 10,000 rockets at
southern Israeli cities, towns and villages, leading Israel to impose the
blockade to prevent the entry of weapons and material that could be used to
Yaakov Lappin and Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this
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