State to High Court: Shin Bet to tone down questioning political activists

Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) filed a petition in 2013 to fight what it viewed as attempts to oppress free speech and political action.

June 14, 2016 22:46
1 minute read.
ACRI Israel

Sharon Abraham-Weiss, executive director of ACRI, 2015. (photo credit: JOE MABEL/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)

Under pressure from a petition filed by an NGO, the state told the High Court of Justice on Tuesday that the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) will be less aggressive in questioning political activists.

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) filed the petition in 2013 to fight what it viewed as attempts to suppress free speech and political action. ACRI said it viewed the announcement as a mixed bag of success and defeat.

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On one hand, the Shin Bet has committed to telling political activists whom it considers subversive and potential troublemakers, that when it summons them for informal meetings, they do not need to appear.

This will be true whether the activists are summoned verbally or in writing.

On the other hand, an ACRI spokesman indicated that the Shin Bet refused to show them the text they would use for summoning activists.

At most, the state and the security agency agreed to allow a third party, such as a retired judge, to review the text sometime in September.

ACRI had hoped the court would declare such summons illegal if they did not involve a clear security or terror threat.

An ACRI spokesman said that it appeared that the court was accepting the idea that the Shin Bet had the authority to issue summonses to political activists whom it considered troublesome or destabilizing, even absent a clear security threat.

In the petition, ACRI had cited a 2012 summoning of an activist who was against plans by the government to resettle Beduins in the Negev from unauthorized villages to larger cities, as an example of a coercive measure that stifled freedom to organize around political causes.

Some of the developments in the petition were foreshadowed by a legal brief submitted by the state to the High Court on June 2, while others were reported by ACRI verbally since the court spokesman’s office refused to release a transcript of the proceedings on the grounds that it involved the Shin Bet.

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