Israeli activists from ship to Gaza released on bail
Three Israeli activists from the Gaza-bound ship Estelle released on NIS 50,000 bail after two days in custody.
By YONAH JEREMY BOB, TOVAH LAZAROFF
Three Israeli activists from the Gaza-bound ship Estelle were released on NIS 50,000 bail Monday, after spending two days in police custody.They were arrested Saturday along with 27 pro-Palestinian foreign activists after they failed to break Israel’s naval blockade on Gaza by defying navy orders to halt their 53- meter Swedish vessel sailing under a Finish flag.“I am now on my way home, but I keep thinking of my shipmates, my fellow activists from abroad who are still imprisoned under harsh conditions and undergoing interrogation by the Shin Bet [Israel Security Agency], among them parliament members from several countries,” said one the three Israelis, Elazar Elhanan.Beersheba District Court Judge Yael Raz-Levi ordered their release and banned them from approaching within 500 meters of Gaza.Her order superseded the Ashkelon Magistrate’s Court ruling Sunday which had remanded the passengers to police custody at least until Tuesday, leaving open the possibility of keeping them in custody for even longer.The District Court disagreed with the Ashkelon Magistrate’s Court in certain key areas, finding that releasing the three passengers, Yonatan Shapira, Reut Mor and Elhanan, would not obstruct the investigation.The remaining investigative action that the first court had based its opinion on had not been implemented, but the state admitted that there was no way that the suspects could obstruct the success of that investigative action.AdvertisementDespite releasing the suspects, Raz-Levi affirmed the Ashkelon court ruling regarding all of the charges leveled against the suspects. She also ruled that the charges of incitement to rebellion and aiding the enemy were baseless.Next, Raz-Levi concurred with the Ashkelon court that there were grounds for the charge of “violating a law” with respect to certain parts of a 2005 law regarding Gaza and the Disengagement.However, the Ashkelon court had required a combination of finding evidence regarding that charge along with the argument of obstructing the investigation in order to hold the suspects in police custody.Once again, without the crucial finding regarding obstructing the investigation, even agreeing that there were grounds to charge the suspects was not enough to keep them in police custody.While the police representative attempted a few new arguments, the only one that had a chance was the suggestion – that had not been raised in Ashkelon – that the suspects represented a danger to public order.Essentially, the argument was that anyone participating in the flotilla was trying to break a blockade that is a critical element of Israel’s security in confronting Hamas and other terrorists in the Gaza Strip.Ultimately, both because the argument had not been raised previously and because Raz- Levi believed that NIS 50,000 bail – plus commitments from the suspects not to attempt the same activities in the near future – was sufficient to prevent them from attempting the same conduct, the court rejected the argument and released the suspects.Raz-Levi also noted that the three Israelis had, at most, attempted to break the blockade, but had not actually succeeded.Accordingly, the court found that the danger of them causing real damage to Israeli security was remote.Elhanan said he did not regret sailing on the ship.“I knew what I was getting into,” he said.He alleged that the Israeli security forces that boarded the ship used excessive force against the activists. He noted that no less than 15 vessels approached theirs, including one carrying a helicopter.“Fifteen armed naval vessels against one small civilian boat carrying games for the children of Gaza,” he said.“When they came aboard and we blocked their way, the soldiers knew exactly who I was.They shouted in Hebrew, ‘Elhanan, you will pay for your leftism!’ and used the taser to give me electric shocks,” he said.“If they think they could deter me, and those who sailed with me, they are mistaken.The siege of Gaza is an ongoing crime and it must be ended. We will continue the struggle,” Elhanan said.Out of the 27 foreign activists on board the Estelle, 11 were from Sweden, four from Norway, two from Finland, five from Greece, three from Spain and one each from Canada and Italy. As of Sunday night, 10 had been deported.In July 2011, the UN’s Palmer Commission published a report on the IDF’s interception in May 2010 of the Turkish protest flotilla, and ruled that Israel’s security blockade on Gaza “is both legal and appropriate.”Since 2001, Palestinian terrorists in Gaza have fired more than 10,000 rockets at southern Israeli cities, towns and villages, leading Israel to impose the blockade to prevent the entry of weapons and material that could be used to build weapons.
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