Court orders army to hold hearing for Palestinian student expelled from West Bank to Gaza

Court orders army to hol

The High Court of Justice on Thursday ordered the army to grant a hearing to a 21-year-old Palestinian woman from Gaza who was summarily expelled last month from the West Bank where she was in her final year of studies at Bethlehem University. A row of black-robed priests from the university staff filled the first row of the courtroom to demonstrate support for their student, Berlanty Azzam. According to news reports, the US State Department has also taken an interest in the case and contacted the Israeli embassy in Washington for information about the affair. Azzam began her studies in business administration and translation in 2005. But the army claims that she entered the West Bank illegally and only after deceiving Israeli authorities. According to the state, Azzam applied for an entry visa to Israel four years ago and said she wished to take the university entrance exam. Israeli authorities rejected the request. Two months later, Azzam applied again, this time asking to visit Jerusalem for a few days. The request was granted. From Jerusalem, she managed to cross into Bethlehem where she remained until her expulsion. The state, however, has no documents to prove its contentions, even though Azzam did not deny that her first application to enter Israel had been rejected. However, the state also maintains that MK Haim Oron (Meretz) had intervened on behalf of Azzam in her first request. Azzam's lawyer, Yadin Elam of the human rights organization Gisha, said her client did not know Oron and that she had not asked for his help. The state also has no documentation of Azzam's second request, to enter Jerusalem, and does not know what reasons she had given or why it had been granted. Furthermore, the army did not grant a hearing to the student before deporting her. They searched her, questioned her according to a prepared questionnaire, then bundled her off to Gaza. Elam charged that she had been denied due process. Presiding justice Miriam Naor told the state's representatives that there was a "fog over the evidence" that needed to be cleared up during the hearing, which is due to be held next week at the Erez checkpoint.