High Court refuses to free alleged al-Qaida arch terrorist held without charge for 3 years

Court rules "biological weapons expert," who recruited "many violent followers" is too dangerous to release.

Samer Al-Barak (photo credit: Screenshot Channel 10)
Samer Al-Barak
(photo credit: Screenshot Channel 10)
The High Court of Justice on Tuesday rejected a request from an alleged al- Qaida arch-terrorist to be freed from administrative detention after over three years.
The court accepted the state’s arguments that Samer Abed a-Latif al-Barak was an arch-terrorist who had training in and headed al-Qaida’s biological weapons program, had recruited many violent followers and had significant contact with top al- Qaida leaders such as its current chief Ayman al- Zawahiri.
A three-justice panel of Daphna Barak-Erez, Edna Arbel and Uzi Vogelman said that being kept in administrative detention for more than three years with no definite end in sight was “not a situation to be accepted lightly,” but that in light of how dangerous Barak was, “at this time there is no less harmful method” for preventing him from returning to carrying out terrorist attacks.
Noting what it called new intelligence regarding Barak, the court said there was no basis to argue that he had become less dangerous over time.
Also, the court said its decision could be supported solely based on publicly presented evidence regarding Barak’s background as a terrorist, without a need to rely on secret evidence presented to the court behind closed doors on Monday.
The court addressed a main argument of Barak’s lawyer, that the IDF had closed the criminal case against him without filing an indictment.
It said that the IDF had decided there was no public interest in pursuing the matter, not because it doubted that Barak had committed the crimes he was accused of, but because the crimes dated to 1998 and there might be issues with violating the statute of limitations for how soon a criminal case must be brought after the date of the alleged crime in question.
The court seemed to imply, however, that the delay in bringing the case was a technicality that was not Israel’s fault, since for most of 2001 to 2010, Barak was in US or Jordanian custody.
Administrative detention is indefinite detention without trial, in this case based on the idea that though criminal charges cannot be brought, Barak is too dangerous to be released. It is a controversial concept that few countries use as much as Israel, though Israel says that it has more dire security issues than many of its critics.
Other arguments made by Barak’s lawyer, such as that the US and Jordan had released Barak after detaining him, proving that he was no arch-terrorist, were dismissed by the court without any specific rebuttal.
The court also did not engage Barak’s argument that the last IDF judge who extended his detention said he was doing so with a heavy and unsure heart. Nor did the court address his argument that the IDF appeals court had misused its authority by denying Barak’s appeal with no substantive arguments, simply because he would not stand up in court when it demanded he do so to recognize the court.
Barak, of Palestinian origin, was born in 1974, but left the region in 1997 to study microbiology in Pakistan.
The state has said he was involved in planning terrorist attacks against Israelis and Jews in Jordan throughout 2001.
Barak will have another chance to challenge his detention every six months going forward, though now that his case is public, Israel’s efforts to send him to a third country may get expedited to avoid further headlines on the issue.
B’Tselem – The Israel Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories said on Monday that information in its possession indicated that there are currently eight detainees who have been held in administrative detention for close to as long as Barak, but that he has been held longer than any of the others.