Judge 'not comfortable' with Prisons Service press leaks

Fahima requests appeal over harmful divulged information.

Supreme Court Justice Edmond Levy said Wednesday he was disturbed by the fact that Prisons Service officials had released information about allegedly bad behavior by Tali Fahima while she was being held in jail during her trial. "Some of us do not feel comfortable with what happened here," Levy told the state's representative, attorney Dana Briskman. He was referring to stories, emanating from the Prisons Service and appearing in the press, that put Fahima in a bad light. The Association for Civil Rights in Israel petitioned Tel Aviv District Court on Fahima's behalf over the matter, demanding that the officials who released the reports be punished. The lower court rejected the petition. In response, ACRI asked the Supreme Court for permission to appeal to it on the matter. Levy and the other justices, who were critical of the state during Wednesday's hearing, said they would decide on the request in a few days. ACRI attorney Avner Pinchuk told the court that the descriptions of Fahima's behavior in jail could very likely have turned public opinion against the defendant. Furthermore, the information that was divulged was also a violation of her right to privacy, he said. "Not everything should be published," Pinchuk told the court. "That is not the Prisons Service's prerogative." He accused it of "pouring oil on the fire of a trial that already had the public riled up." Briskman said it was not unusual for the Prisons Service to release information on the conduct of prisoners and that it was not out to get Fahima. "The public has reason to know when a security prisoner makes statements like hers," said Briskman. According to the appeal, Fahima complained that on September 20 Yediot Aharonot published an item stating that Fahima shouted at her jailers, "Itbach el-Yahud" (Arabic for "slaughter the Jews"). On January 26, 2005, the same newspaper reported that Fahima had shouted, "You piece of garbage" and "I'll kill you" at a jailer who refused to light her cigarette, and that she had "gone wild and cursed" because she refused to allow one of the jailers to conduct a body search. On February 10, Ha'aretz reported that Fahima had complained about the quality of the food in jail and quoted a "senior official in the service" who allegedly said, "You might get the impression from her complaints that until her arrest she was used to eating only gourmet food."