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An IDF military court reversed its decision on Monday and ruled that 21 Hamas ministers and lawmakers currently in Israeli custody would remain in jail until the end of legal proceedings against them.
In his decision, Judge Col. Shaul Gordon said Hamas officials could not live with a dual personality: on the one hand as democratically elected officials and on the other hand as members of a known terror group.
"Due to their senior status in the Hamas organization, there is no choice but to order their continued confinement, even if they do not play a direct role in terror activities," Gordon said. "This duality cannot exist and therefore the defendants need to decide where they are heading."
The State of Israel, the judge wrote in his decision, wages a daily battle against terror groups operating with the clear goal of destroying and killing Israeli citizens. As high ranking as the Hamas officials were, "they cannot hide behind names and titles to be able to implement their illegal goals," he wrote.
The judge said that his decision did not come easily. "Not every day are democratically elected ministers and lawmakers brought before a court," the judge wrote. "And even though the Hamas group has declared as its goal the destruction of Israel, it does not make this decision any easier."
Among the 21 are Palestinian Legislative Council Speaker Aziz Dweik, PA Religion Minister Na'af Rajoub, PA Labor Minister Muhammad Barghouti, PA Jerusalem Affairs Minister Khaled Abu Arfa and orange-bearded PLC member Muhammad Abu Tir.
Following the hearing, Dweik waved his hands in a sign of victory despite the decision against him, saying that the judge's decision was politically motivated.
Defense lawyer Jawad Boulous denounced the proceedings as a political trial. "Israel today is the one who decides whom the Palestinians should elect," he said.
Mushir al-Masri, a Hamas lawmaker, said the decision was "an indication that the Zionist judicial system is held hostage by the politicians and their decisions.... We don't recognize the legitimacy of this Zionist court."
MK Taleb A-Sanaa (United Arab List), who led the defense for the Hamas lawmakers, said that the court decision would have a negative impact on efforts to release kidnapped IDF soldier Cpl. Gilad Shalit. "With this decision, the state apparently wants to continue its policy of targeted killings and occupation against the Palestinian people," he said.
Maj. Maurice Hirsch, deputy IDF prosecutor in Judea and Samaria, said the court's decision backed up the prosecution's claim that there was sufficient evidence to prove that the Hamas officials were members of a terror group. "The State of Israel has the right to defend itself against terrorism," Hirsch said.
The IDF Prosecutor's Office filed an appeal on September 21 against the military court's previous decision to release on bail the Hamas detainees under indictment for membership in a terrorist organization. Military Judge Maj. Ronen Atzmon had ordered the release on bail of the 21.