(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Under the pressure of a petition to the High Court of Justice, the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) announced Sunday that it will soon release a young right-wing Jewish activist from administrative detention.
Born in 1999 but with his name still under gag order, the activist was controversially placed in administrative detention in June despite a Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court order to free him from the state’s custody.
The state explained the seeming disregard of the court’s order as legal since the court order was merely to free the activist from standard custody waiting for a criminal indictment.
In contrast, the court had not ruled on administrative detention, which is a separate legal process that a different court supervises.
But the activist’s lawyer, Itamar Ben-Gvir, said that the idea that the Shin Bet could throw someone in administrative detention in violation of a court order to free the person which was based on lack of evidence, was “emblematic of Putin’s Russia.”
Israel says it uses administrative detention when it has information that a suspect is dangerous, but it cannot present all the evidence in court for fear of divulging intelligence sources.
Globally, Israel is criticized for using the practice, which includes legal proceedings, but it allows the prosecution to present secret evidence and it does not give suspects all of the standard criminal protections.
In a joint statement to the High Court, the Shin Bet and the state said they had agreed to drop the petition once there was a commitment to release the activist by August 19. The sides are still negotiating over the terms of the release, including a possible restraining order on being in certain parts of the West Bank and certain house arrest conditions.
In his petition to the High Court, Ben-Gvir had ripped the state’s reasoning apart for having placed the activist in administrative detention.
He narrated earlier court proceedings where he had caught Shin Bet agents and prosecution witnesses in inconsistencies undermining a range of charges against the activist.
Ben-Gvir characterized the suspicions against the activist as minor and said that even after the Shin Bet got extended time to investigate, it only found more evidence against a different suspect, and not against Ben-Gvir’s client.
The lawyer railed against the Shin Bet for treating the activist worse, by putting him in administrative detention, than it had treated another suspect, who was conditionally released from custody even as the court said there was more serious evidence against the released suspect.
The case had been controversial from the start when the Shin Bet blocked the activist from meeting with his lawyer for several days.
The activist was suspected of nationalistic actions, usually a euphemism for violence against Israeli Arabs or Palestinians.
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.
After the activist was ordered to be released in June, but before he was placed in administrative detention, 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 state started using harsher tactics with Jewish extremists after the July 2015 Duma terrorist 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.
Until then enhanced interrogation and administrative detention had not been used with Jews.