Official stands by criticism of court action against protestors

By DAN IZENBERG
November 8, 2005 07:45
4 minute read.

 
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Public Defender Inbal Rubinstein told the Knesset Law Committee on Monday that no one had threatened to fire her for the internal document written by her office criticizing the courts and the state prosecution for improper conduct in dealing with minors who protested the disengagement. She also said she stood by the report and had only retracted one statement that appeared in the four-page document. Rubinstein added that she had not written a letter of apology to the head of the Courts Administration, Boaz Okun, but had only wanted to clarify to him that the document was not meant as a sweeping criticism of all the judges in the system. The Law Committee held an emergency session at the request of Zevulun Orlev (NRP), Yuli Edelstein (Likud) and Meir Porush (Agudat Yisrael) to discuss reports that the Justice Ministry had squelched the document drafted by the Public Defender's Office and threatened to fire Rubinstein. The document, which was written in July before disengagement, was leaked to Israel Radio several weeks ago. Ten days ago, Rubinstein wrote letters to Okun and to the staff of the Public Defender's Office in which she allegedly backed away from the charges in the document. However, during Monday's hearing, Rubinstein told the MKs, "I could not retract the basic positions detailed in the document. At the same time, I absolutely disagreed with one of the sentences that appeared there, which said, 'the facts show us that there was a selective enforcement of the law.' I disagreed with this sentence because some readers might have understood it to mean that people were arrested and punished because of their political affiliation." "This is obviously not true. I do not suspect anyone in the law enforcement system, the police, the state prosecution and certainly not the courts of punishing people on the basis of their political affiliation." But she did not express reservations regarding the rest of the document, which began with the charge, "The judicial handling of disengagement detainees strengthens the feeling that the need to deter the plan's opponents and foil anyone who tried to interfere with it so as to enable [the government] to continue implementing it took precedence over basic rules that must be observed in order to conduct proper criminal procedures." In response to a query, Rubinstein acknowledged that she had publicly expressed her disagreement with the sentence in the document after being asked to do so, but said she wholeheartedly meant what she said. Committee chairman Michael Eitan (Likud) demanded to know if anyone had threatened Rubinstein after the report was revealed. "No one, not the Justice Minister, not the director-general of the Justice Ministry, not the Public Defender's Committee, threatened me," she replied. Rubinstein said Justice Minister Tzipi Livni had convened a meeting of the ministry's top echelon to discuss the document. The discussion had been substantive and there had been nothing unpleasant about it, said Rubinstein. Orlev said he was "shocked" by Rubinstein's report, as well as another report on the same subject published by the Israel Policy Center and Honenu Legal Defense Association. "This is the Yom Kippur of the judicial system," he said. "There was not a single error it did not commit. All the protection mechanisms were trampled. No rule was observed." Orlev compared the conduct of the courts vis- -vis the disengagement protesters to King Ahab, who killed Navot in order to inherit his vineyard. "In that case, it was 'did you kill and also inherit,'" said Orlev. "In this case it is 'did you expel and arrest them and also cause them lifelong damage?'" Deputy State Attorney for Special Tasks Shai Nitzan told the committee that, out of the hundreds of minors arrested during the protests, only five had been remanded in custody until the end of proceedings. These included four 17-year-olds suspected of perpetrating serious crimes and a girl who was remanded only after her eighth arrest for taking part in demonstrations, said Nitzan.

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