Hamas detainees get first lawyer visit

Visit follows petition charging Prison Service of preventing such meetings.

abu tir and hamas MPs298 (photo credit: AP)
abu tir and hamas MPs298
(photo credit: AP)
Fida Kawar, a lawyer for one of the three east Jerusalem Hamas politicians who were detained last week by security forces and deprived of their Israeli residency status, visited two of the detainees in Ayalon Prison on Tuesday after the state informed the High Court that he was free to do so. No details about the meeting were available. Earlier Kawar, Sa'adi Osama and representatives of the Israeli Arab human rights organization Adalah had petitioned the High Court, charging that the Prison Service was prohibiting the lawyers from meeting the three detainees, even though it had not issued a formal order prohibiting the visit. The lawyers are representing the three detainees and another east Jerusalem Hamas representative against last week's Interior Ministry decision to strip them of their Israeli residency status and banish them to the West Bank. The detainees are also suspected of violating the Anti-Terrorism Ordinance. The three Hamas representatives who are in jail are Muhammad Abu Tir, Ahmed Abu Atoun and Khaled Abu Arafa. The fourth, Mahmoud Totah, is in Jordan. Totah was not at home when the arrests were made last week, but he has been stripped of his Israeli residency status. During Tuesday's hearing, the state's representative, attorney Haran Reichman, told the court there was no prohibition against the lawyers' meeting with their clients. He said the Prison Service had only prohibited the detainees from meeting with family members for fear they would try to smuggle out messages or instructions connected to the kidnapping of Israeli soldier Cpl. Gilad Shalit. Reichman had written to the lawyers the previous day, saying they were free to visit the detainees, and repeated his statement to the panel of three justices during the hearing. Nevertheless, Adalah attorney Abeer Baker complained about the procedures established by the Prison Service, which oblige lawyers to make advance arrangements to visit their clients in jail. Presiding Justice Miriam Na'or told her to change the wording of the petition so that it would focus on this complaint. Prison Service legal adviser Tat-Gundar Haim Shmuelevitz told The Jerusalem Post that the Prison Service had formulated the guidelines for lawyers' visits after consulting the Bar Association and the Public Defender's Office and that the guidelines were meant to help the lawyers. He explained that when lawyers showed up at a prison unannounced, they often had to wait for hours until a room was free for them to meet with their clients. In other cases, lawyers had arrived at prisons only to discover that their clients had been moved to other facilities. Baker later told The Jerusalem Post that Kawar had been made to wait from about noon to 6 p.m. before meeting with Abu Tir and Atoun. Meanwhile, Na'or ordered the hearing on the amended petition to be held in October. A senior Prisons Authority officer told The Jerusalem Post Tuesday that the detainees were being treated just like all other security detainees and that no special considerations would be afforded them due to their political positions. Like other security prisoners, they are forbidden to possess cellular phones. While they are all entitled to a three-hour exercise in the prison courtyard, they are not permitted recess at the same time. Since Shalit's kidnapping, no security prisoners have been permitted visitors. Rebecca Anna Stoil contributed to this report.