The High Court of Justice on Wednesday rejected a petition by a Palestinian
detainee to overturn a military court ruling extending his administrative
Mahmoud Adib Mahmoud Masalani petitioned the High Court after
the military court of appeals refused to overturn a military court ruling to
extend his detention until May 27.
The panel of justices – Edna Arbel,
Neal Handel and Zvi Zilbertal – said that after a careful review of the
evidentiary material, they believed Masalani posed a threat to regional security
and to the public. Therefore, they said, the decision to extend his
administrative detention was correct.
However, the justices added that
should no further evidentiary material be found against him, the military court
should consider his release. Masalani, 38, is a Hamas activist who previously
served 17-and-a-half years in prison for stabbing a Border Police officer in
After his release in September 2010, he returned to work for
Hamas, the security forces said.
Masalani was rearrested in April 2011,
and when security officers interrogated him, he denied the
At that time, the military court ruled to hold him in
administrative detention after the security services testified that classified
intelligence reports indicated he posed a threat to regional security. Since
then, the military court has periodically ruled to extend his administrative
In the latest military court hearing in February, the court
found that evidentiary material the security services had presented was reliable
and indicated that, if released, Masalani posed a real danger to regional
security and public safety.
In the petition, Masalani’s lawyer, Jamil
Khatib, complained that the military court routinely rejected appeals against
administrative detention orders.
As Masalani’s defense counsel, Khatib
requested permission to review the classified intelligence material concerning
his client, in order to formulate a reasonable defense.
He also told the
High Court that Masalani was suffering from a psychiatric complaint, and that he
wished to marry and live a normal life.
The attorney further asked the
court why other more prominent individuals who were also involved in the
activities attributed to Masalani had not been arrested.
Keydar, representing the state, argued that there was no place for the High
Court to intervene in the military court ruling, because the security services
had gathered reliable, classified intelligence regarding Masalani that provided
the basis for assessing the risk he posed to regional
Administrative detention, the state argued, was the only
effective way to prevent the serious danger Masalani posed.
ruling came days after the court also refused petitions by two detainees on
hunger strike, Bilal Diab and Thaer Halahleh, which led some human rights groups
to criticize Israel’s practice of administrative detention.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas warned of a “backlash” should any
of the detainees on hunger strike die.
In Wednesday’s ruling, the
justices gave a thorough legal review of the administrative detention procedures
and regulations, including the issue of secret evidence.
Arbel noted that
the military court was empowered to order administrative detention under the
2007 Order Regarding Administrative Detentions (Temporary Order), which allows
the commander of IDF forces in the region to order a person detained for a
maximum of six months, if there were reasonable grounds to believe that regional
security or public safety required it.
While detentions can be extended
periodically for no more than six months each time, the 2007 order stipulates
that this may only happen if deemed “essential for security
“The reason for administrative detention is to prevent future
threats to state security or public safety,” Arbel said, noting that this
differed from usual criminal legal proceedings, which aimed to punish for past
The justice added that administrative detention was often based
on evidentiary material that, while justifying detention, was not admissible as
evidence in a criminal trial.
That material, she continued, is frequently
classified defense material that cannot be revealed to the detainee or to his
counsel, because to do so could compromise either state security or that of
While that does make it difficult for a detainee to
mount a defense, Arbel said the High Court had previously found that secret
evidence was a necessary tool.
She added that the High Court routinely
reviewed the classified material used as the basis for administrative
detentions, with “care and attention to the necessary balance between protecting
the public and national security, and the detainee’s freedom and dignity.”