Court upholds settlers' release to house arrest

Court rejects petition to extend remand of five activists indicted for gathering military information on W. Bank outpost demolitions.

By
January 15, 2012 14:52
3 minute read.
Settlers indicted for Ephraim base attack

Settlers indicted for Ephraim base attack 311. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post))

 
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The Supreme Court ruled on Sunday to uphold the release to house arrest of five activists indicted for gathering military information regarding government-ordered demolitions of unauthorized West Bank outposts.

The state had appealed against a Jerusalem District Court ruling last week to release the five men to full house arrest, arguing they should be remanded in custody throughout the proceedings against them.

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The five men, David Tzvi Eliyahu, 17; Meir Etinger, 18; Akiva Pinchas Hacohen, 27; Ephraim Moshe Chaykin, 18; and Elad Meir, 36, were indicted in the Jerusalem District Court last week on a string of charges, including gathering military intelligence, conspiracy to riot, conspiracy to enter a military base, and conspiracy to obstruct a public servant.

Hacohen is also charged with obstructing the course of justice by lying to officers searching his home about a cellphone in his possession.

At the request of the state, the five men had remained in custody pending the Supreme Court’s ruling on the state’s appeal.

According to the indictment, the men conspired to thwart government-ordered demolitions of unauthorized West Bank outposts by obtaining military intelligence about the planned evacuations. To gather reports of military movements and plans, the five defendants allegedly established a “war room” call center.

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Allegedly, they coordinated reports from other activists, including IDF soldiers in active service.

They wanted to be able to warn activists so they could gather at outposts and prevent evacuations.

The indictment charges that the activities carried out by the defendants prevented the evacuation of unlawful structures in the Mitzpe Yitzhar outpost, near Nablus, in December. Following the information-gathering activities of the five defendants, around 50 activists clashed with soldiers outside the Ephraim Regional Brigade base on December 12. During the riot, the brigade commander was wounded and army vehicles were damaged.

Although the state asked the court to remand the five men in custody, the Jerusalem District Court ruled last week that they should be released to house arrest for the duration of the trial.

That decision came after lawyers for the men argued their actions had been legitimate protest activities, that the existence of the “war room” had been well-known, and that their main activity had been organizing nonviolent protests.

In appealing the district court’s ruling in the Supreme Court, however, the state argued that releasing the five men from custody undermined the rule of law, and said the defendants had organized and initiated “criminal acts on ideological grounds.”

However, in ruling to reject the state’s appeal and uphold the district court’s decision to release the men to house arrest, Justice Isaac Amit noted that the five men had not been directly involved in the violent activities at the Ephraim Brigade base, and that the question of whether their actions resulted in the riot would be elucidated during the criminal trial.

Amit said the grounds for remanding defendants in custody during legal proceedings are “an integral part of the rules of the game of the laws of arrest.”

“In a democratic country, the rules of the game cannot be changed, not even for those like the [defendants] who make use of nondemocratic measures,” the justice said.

Following the judgment, MK Michael Ben-Ari (National Union) said the Supreme Court should have ordered the defendants’ release without conditions, rather than to full house arrest.

“In a democracy, organizing protests against the expulsion of Jews is permitted,” Ben-Ari said.

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