High Court refuses to release three jailed Hamas legislators

Ahmed Atoun, Wa'il al-Husseini, Bassem Za'arid are charged with holding a position in an illegal organization and other offenses.

Hamas MPs 298.88 (photo credit: Ahmad Gharabli)
Hamas MPs 298.88
(photo credit: Ahmad Gharabli)
The High Court of Justice rejected a petition on Thursday submitted by three Hamas legislators asking it to overrule a military appeals court and release them from custody. They have been detained since being arrested early last summer. The petitioners, Ahmed Atoun, Wa'il al-Husseini and Bassem Za'arid, were charged in a West Bank military court with membership and activity in an illegal organization, holding a position in an illegal organization, and other offenses in accordance with the 1945 Defense Emergency Regulations. On the day the indictments were served, the military prosecutor asked the court to remand the three men in custody until the end of the legal proceedings. The judge, Maj. Ronen Atzmon, rejected the remand request and said the indictments should be canceled on the grounds that they were unjust. Atzmon wrote that the elected officials had relied on a statement from Israel that none of the Palestinian legislative candidates would be arrested for belonging to an illegal organization, that Israel had agreed to the elections and that it had not objected to any of the parties that ran, including the petitioners' party, which was linked to Hamas. The army petitioned against the ruling to a military appeals court, which overturned it. The head of the court, Shmuel Gordon, ruled that senior members of a terrorist organization could not be allowed to go free by hiding behind their titles as legislators. The three men petitioned the High Court, asking it to overturn the appeals court decision on the basis of the military court's argument that the indictment was unjustified. The court ruled Thursday that the petitioners' request to be released from custody because the indictment was unjustified should be put to the court trying their case.