Reading a terrorist’s mind – Knesset panel redefines terrorist group membership

The most heated part of the discussion came with a new provision that in some ways purports to read a terrorist’s mind or intentions in order to bring criminal charges against the individual.

November 11, 2014 03:06
2 minute read.

Wide view of the Knesset. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)


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The Knesset Law, Constitution and Justice Committee had a heated debate on Monday over a new law that will address a number of issues in defining terrorist groups and at what point someone becomes a member, which can lead to criminal charges.

The most heated part of the discussion came with a new provision that in some ways purports to read a terrorist’s mind or intentions in order to bring criminal charges against the individual.

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The specific provision says that a person could be considered a member of a terrorist organization, which in and of itself could lead to some substantial jail time, if a person tells someone else they are a member.

According to a committee spokesman, Justice Ministry representative Na’ama Freuchtsinger and others objected to how broad this provision was, concerned that it could lead to a slippery slope in which anyone who said they identify with the ideology of a terrorist group could be branded a terrorist and thrown in prison.

By their argument, this would be an overbroad definition of membership in a terrorist organization, as many might identify with a group ideologically without ever undertaking any illegal action for which facing criminal charges could be justified.

Defending the expanded definition, a representative from the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) complained that without it, the agency is often left on the fence, unable to nab terrorists because they are part of a looser, less-defined group than bigger groups like Hamas.

The representative said that absent a wider definition, the Shin Bet could be left with two unattractive options: nabbing a terrorist they are tracking only after he has perpetrated a terrorist act (without which they have no grounds to arrest him) or to administratively detain more people, since that can be done without needing to present conventional criminal charges.

The Shin Bet representative said the agency prefers a wider definition and using the regular criminal justice system over overuse of administrative detention.

Separately, the chief military prosecutor for Judea and Samaria, Lt.-Col. Maurice Hirsch, told the committee that judicial decisions in the West Bank courts are, out of necessity, already ahead of the developments in Israel on terrorism definition issues.

He said that the West Bank might adopt some aspects of the new law, but that the greater volume of terrorism in West Bank courts necessitates a faster and more regular judicial process for addressing challenges.

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