A municipal worker paints over ‘price tag’ graffiti daubed in Hebrew on a wall of the Romanian Orthodox Church in Jerusalem, May 9, 2014..
(photo credit: AMMAR AWAD / REUTERS)
The Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court on Sunday ordered a young right-wing activist freed from custody after the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) blocked him from meeting with his lawyer for five days last week.
The minor’s release has been temporarily frozen pending possible appeal by the prosecution.
The minor, whose name is under gag order, is suspected of nationalistic actions, usually a euphemism for violence against Israeli-Arabs or Palestinians, though the allegations also remain under gag order.
It is always controversial when suspects – independent of nationality or religion – are prevented from meeting with their lawyers, though traditionally such actions have been used far more often with Palestinians.
But the Shin Bet has been using the tool with increasing frequency in recent years against Jews since elevating its focus on Jewish violence.
However, the suspect’s lawyer, Itamar Ben-Gvir, said that at most the actions the suspect was accused of were “price tag”-type behaviors and the state had no authority to withhold the basic right to counsel from minors when it grants the right to murderers and members of organized crime.
In response, the state usually contends that hard-core Jewish extremists refuse to cooperate with interrogators and lie to them until the suspects feel a loss of control and isolation by being prevented from consulting with their lawyers.
A second minor was also prevented from meeting with Ben-Gvir from last Sunday until last Friday.
On Friday, Lod District Court President Avraham Tal ordered law enforcement to permit the minors to meet with Ben-Gvir for the first time.
In a separate decision on Sunday, the Rishon Lezion court shortened the detention which the prosecution had requested for the second minor, ordering that he be released this Tuesday.
The prosecution had requested keeping him in custody until Thursday for purposes of interrogation and avoiding obstruction of justice.
Ben-Gvir said: “The conduct of the Shin Bet is disgraceful. In the dead of night, they take minors away and this has already become a set ritual, preventing them from meeting with their lawyer... The worst criminals in the State of Israel get the right to consult with a lawyer.”
The mothers of one of the minors said, “He cannot tell us anything...
after a week in the basements of the Shin Bet. We don’t know with who or where he is located and what they are doing to him.”
The father said, “There is a law enforcement system and I respect it. If there is something against my son, they should say what it is and we will deal with it. But preventing him from meeting with a lawyer cannot be.”
Neither the Justice Ministry nor the Shin Bet has released information on the case. Generally, those entities do not clarify charges in a case until either a gag order is lifted or an indictment is near.
The state started using harsher tactics with Jewish extremists after the July 2015 Duma terror attack on Palestinians, for which Amiram Ben-Uliel is on trial.
During the Duma investigation, the Shin Bet used enhanced interrogation and administrative detention and prevented suspects from meeting with lawyers.
Since then, enhanced interrogation and administrative detention have not been used with Jews. However, the issue of blocking meetings with lawyers has been raised a number of times in cases of a more violent nature.