Judge releases 'anonymous' settler girls

Girls became symbols of Right's rejection of court system after they refused to identify themselves.

settler girls 224.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
settler girls 224.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
The last of seven female settler youths, who have become a symbol of right-wing rejection of the legitimacy of the secular state's judicial system, were released Monday by order of Jerusalem District Court Judge Noam Solberg. The sudden release was seen as a major victory for the settlement movement cause. The girls, all minors between 13 and 15 and all students at the Ma'aleh Levona Girls School, known for its starkly right-wing religious Zionist ideology, stood by their refusal to divulge their identities throughout their three-week imprisonment in Ramle's Neveh Tirza female penitentiary. As a result of the judge's intervention, the police, who had insisted on keeping the girls in prison until their identities were revealed, were forced to release at least one of the seven without successfully identifying her. The girls' refusal to identify themselves was, they said, a conscious protest staged against what they consider the state's "corrupt" legal system. "We do not recognize the laws of the state," said one of the girls released Monday, whose identity could not be disclosed in accordance with laws protecting the privacy of minors. "I believe that the Jewish people should be governed by the laws of the Torah, not laws written by goyim. Besides, most Israelis have lost faith with the Knesset which is filled with people who are not so honest. We need a different, more pure, leadership." All seven minors were arrested for their involvement in establishing the Givat Ha'or outpost on the outskirts of the Samarian settlement Beit El. All were charged with illegally trespassing in a closed military area. None was accused of attacking police or other violent acts. Deputy State Defender Nochi Politis, who was appointed to represent the girls, criticized the police for what she called their "lack of sensitivity." "For nearly a month the police forced those girls to remain in prison with adult women, many of whom are hard-core criminals, exposing them to a very negative environment, for no real reason," said Politis. "The police repeatedly rejected our requests to soften up the girls by allowing their parents to visit. The police offered the ridiculous claim that since they did not know the girls' identities, they could not be sure the adults who visited were really the parents." Politis said the police could have easily identified the girls within a very short time if they had made the effort to do so. A police spokesman said in response that during the three weeks of detention, police investigators went to great lengths to determine the girls' identities. Attorney Shmuel Meidad, director of "Chonenu," a pro-bono legal advocacy group that represents settler activists, praised Solberg's ruling. "The judge ruled that it was unreasonable to keep a group of minors whose culpability was doubtful imprisoned indefinitely," said Meidad. "And even if they were found guilty, the girls would not be imprisoned for more than three weeks for illegally trespassing anyway." Solberg had responded to an appeal by one of the girls, said Meidad. The mother of one of the girls said in response that, "The entire legal system is corrupt and rotten to the core. We are in a real fix when our judicial system and police cannot distinguish between real criminals and ideological youths." Meanwhile, at the girls' request, leading settler rabbis agreed to set up a special investigation committee to look into charges that police had forcibly stripped them of their clothing on the first night of their arrest and had verbally abused them.