Three Israeli activists from the Gaza-bound ship Estelle were released on NIS
50,000 bail Monday, after spending two days in police custody.
arrested Saturday along with 27 pro-Palestinian foreign activists after they
failed to break Israel’s naval blockade on Gaza by defying navy orders to halt
their 53- meter Swedish vessel sailing under a Finish flag.
“I am now on
my way home, but I keep thinking of my shipmates, my fellow activists from
abroad who are still imprisoned under harsh conditions and undergoing
interrogation by the Shin Bet [Israel Security Agency], among them parliament
members from several countries,” said one the three Israelis, Elazar
Beersheba District Court Judge Yael Raz-Levi ordered their
release and banned them from approaching within 500 meters of Gaza.
order superseded the Ashkelon Magistrate’s Court ruling Sunday which had
remanded the passengers to police custody at least until Tuesday, leaving open
the possibility of keeping them in custody for even longer.
Court disagreed with the Ashkelon Magistrate’s Court in certain key areas,
finding that releasing the three passengers, Yonatan Shapira, Reut Mor and
Elhanan, would not obstruct the investigation.
investigative action that the first court had based its opinion on had not been
implemented, but the state admitted that there was no way that the suspects
could obstruct the success of that investigative action.
releasing the suspects, Raz-Levi affirmed the Ashkelon court ruling regarding
all of the charges leveled against the suspects. She also ruled that the charges
of incitement to rebellion and aiding the enemy were baseless.
Raz-Levi concurred with the Ashkelon court that there were grounds for the
charge of “violating a law” with respect to certain parts of a 2005 law
regarding Gaza and the Disengagement.
However, the Ashkelon court had
required a combination of finding evidence regarding that charge along with the
argument of obstructing the investigation in order to hold the suspects in
Once again, without the crucial finding regarding
obstructing the investigation, even agreeing that there were grounds to charge
the suspects was not enough to keep them in police custody.
police representative attempted a few new arguments, the only one that had a
chance was the suggestion – that had not been raised in Ashkelon – that the
suspects represented a danger to public order.
Essentially, the argument
was that anyone participating in the flotilla was trying to break a blockade
that is a critical element of Israel’s security in confronting Hamas and other
terrorists in the Gaza Strip.
Ultimately, both because the argument had
not been raised previously and because Raz- Levi believed that NIS 50,000 bail –
plus commitments from the suspects not to attempt the same activities in the
near future – was sufficient to prevent them from attempting the same conduct,
the court rejected the argument and released the suspects.
noted that the three Israelis had, at most, attempted to break the blockade, but
had not actually succeeded.
Accordingly, the court found that the danger
of them causing real damage to Israeli security was remote.
he did not regret sailing on the ship.
“I knew what I was getting into,”
He alleged that the Israeli security forces that boarded the
ship used excessive force against the activists. He noted that no less than 15
vessels approached theirs, including one carrying a helicopter.
armed naval vessels against one small civilian boat carrying games for the
children of Gaza,” he said.
“When they came aboard and we blocked their
way, the soldiers knew exactly who I was.
They shouted in Hebrew,
‘Elhanan, you will pay for your leftism!’ and used the taser to give me electric
shocks,” he said.
“If they think they could deter me, and those who
sailed with me, they are mistaken.
The siege of Gaza is an ongoing crime
and it must be ended. We will continue the struggle,” Elhanan said.
of the 27 foreign activists on board the Estelle, 11 were from Sweden, four from
Norway, two from Finland, five from Greece, three from Spain and one each from
Canada and Italy. As of Sunday night, 10 had been deported.
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.