Three Israeli activists from the Estelle, a ship that attempted to sail to Gaza,
will appeal their two-day remand in the Beersheba District Court Monday
On Sunday, the Ashkelon Magistrate’s Court remanded them to
police custody for an additional two days after they attempted to break the Gaza
naval blockade by sailing to the Strip aboard the 53-meter Swedish ship, which
carried a Finnish flag.
They were held on the grounds that they “violated
a lawful order” and that they might try to obstruct the
The Israel Navy forcibly boarded the ship on Saturday
after it refused calls to change its course away from Gaza. It also refused an
Israeli offer to allow the ship to dock in Ashdod instead, where it would
transport its cargo from the city to Gaza through a land route.
Population, Immigration and Border Authority said that another 27 foreign
activists on board were arrested and taken to a PIBA detention facility. Of the
foreigners, 11 are from Sweden, four from Norway, two from Finland, five from
Greece, three from Spain, and one each from Canada and Italy.
evening, nine had already been deported after giving up on their right to argue
their case before a judge. The others remain in custody as the law allows them
to see a judge after being held in detention for 72 hours, said PIBA spokeswoman
Sabine Haddad. She added that the rest of the activists will likely be deported
after their hearings.
Attorney Gaby Lasky, whose firm is representing the
foreign and Israeli ship activists, said that one of the Swedish participants
was former Israeli Dror Feiler, who gave up his citizenship 30 years ago. He was
initially treated as a foreigner, she said, but then the authorities changed
“He was shackled and handcuffed and brought to the Ashdod
police station,” she said. From there they brought him to court in Ashkelon for
a criminal hearing, she said and added that she did not know what the results of
She noted ironically that she represented him in a separate
case in which he had been denied entry to the country to visit his elderly
mother on the grounds that he was not Israeli.
A police representative
said the state might bring charges against the three Israeli participants –
Yonatan Shapira, Reut Mor and Elazar Elhanan – for incitement to rebellion,
knowingly assisting the enemy and violating a lawful order. On Sunday, the
Ashkelon Magistrate’s 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
The police 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 report. 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 alternative. But 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
cooperate. 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. The court essentially
dismissed the charge of knowingly assisting the enemy as baseless in light of
its reading of the relevant statute as applying only to IDF soldiers. None of
the suspects are currently serving in the IDF.
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 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, and some even in international waters.
Without extra time
to investigate, the police argued, all flotilla suspects will get away with
breaking the law without charge. The court was unconvinced, stating that
regardless of the challenges presented to the court, it was still the court’s
duty to review each case on its own merits. It said it could not throw out all
court precedents simply because the police had closed few cases against past
A Swedish group Ship to Gaza organized the Estelle’s
voyage. The ship spent close to three months with 20 activists traveling around
Europe, stopping in 20 ports, including nine in Sweden, before heading toward
Gaza on October 7.
Toward the end of last week, 10 additional activists
took a speed boat from Greece and boarded the ship on the open sea, including
the three Israelis.
Lasky alleged that when the navy boarded the ship, it
excessively used taser guns against the activists. She noted that the navy had
confiscated all electronic equipment belonging to the activists, so that it was
impossible to document the claim at this moment. She added, however, that she
hoped that it would be possible to provide documentation soon, because activists
were able to attach SIM and camera cards to homing pigeons who had been on the
In 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.” Since 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 build weapons.