Tali Fahima, the Tel Aviv woman who befriended Jenin's Al Aksa Martyrs Brigades head Zakariya Zubeidi, was released Wednesday from prison after the Prison Services parole board cut short her sentence. Fahima, whose case became a cause celebre throughout the country, was sentenced to three years imprisonment on charges of providing information to the enemy in order to assist him, contacting a foreign agent and violating a legal order.
Zubeidi 'salutes' Fahima, hopes to see her soon
Following her release, Fahima said she planned to continue her "humanitarian work" - a reference to her contacts with Palestinian terror organizations, Army Radio reported.
"I will continue to fight against occupation and for peace," she said.
In reference to her past actions, she said "there is no regret in my heart."
Fahima was greeted outside the Neve Tirza prison by her lawyer, Smadar Ben-Natan, and about 100 other supporters. "I am very happy," Ben-Natan said. "I don't think she needed to sit (in prison) at all, obviously not for this long."
Fahima was released with restrictions, Prison Authority spokeswoman Orit Shtelzer said in a statement. She is "banned from leaving the country in the coming year, contacting a foreign agent or entering unauthorized territories," the statement read.
Fahima denied rumors she had an affair with Zubeydi and continued to call him a "hero." She also told Army Radio she would not renew contact with Zubeydi.
Fahima later told Channel 2 News that she had emerged from her imprisonment "a stronger person," reiterating her commitment to continue to fight against the occupation, and against what she described as the Shin Bet's (Israel Security Agency) oppressive policies against the Palestinians.
When asked whether she was worried about walking the streets of Tel Aviv, Fahima responded that everyone had the "right to express their opinions," adding sarcastically that she could always turn to security establishment if things turned nasty.
Zubeidi told reporters that he and the residents of the Jenin refugee camp were ecstatic at the news of Fahima's release, describing her as someone "who was not afraid to tell the truth about Israel and the occupation."
Wednesday marked Fahima's second appearance before the parole board. Her first request was denied on the grounds that she had acted "crassly and impudently" towards prison guards during her incarceration.
The board, headed by retired judge Nora Lidski, noted that Fahima's behavior had improved during the last three months and that she had agreed to release her after three more months in jail if she kept up her good behavior.
According to the original indictment, Fahima was charged with three other violations, including aiding the enemy in war time, a crime for which the maximum punishment is the death penalty.
She was arrested on August 8, 2004 on her way to Jenin. A year earlier, she had befriended Zubeidi. During one of her subsequent visits, the army raided Jenin in an attempt to arrest Zubeidi and other terrorist leaders.
One of the soldiers lost a classified document containing the details of the operation. Fahima was accused of translating the document to Zubeidi and his friends.
During the police investigation leading up to her trial, the state accused her of planning terrorist acts against Israeli targets.
However the indictment, even in its original form before the plea bargain agreement, did not include such a charge.
Fahima's trial began on January 11, 2005. On November 30 of the same year Ben-Natan reached a plea bargain agreement with the state prosecution according to which the state dropped three of the charges against her.
In return, Fahima agreed to plead guilty to the remaining charges and accept a jail sentence of three years, with the possibility of early parole. Fahima also declared her loyalty to Israel during a hearing at Tel Aviv District Court on December 14, 2005 and said she had not intended to harm state security.
Ben-Natan told The Jerusalem Post that on the basis of what parole board head Lidski said at the previous hearing on September 13, she had hoped her client would be released.
Ben-Natan said Fahima had behaved properly during the past three months except for "one incident in jail," which she declined to describe.
Nevertheless, she said she was worried that the state would "once again not live up to the word it gave in the plea bargain agreement" in which it allegedly promised not to stand in the way of an early release. In the first hearing, held September 13, the state opposed Fahima's parole request.
In a 2005 interview with Yediot Aharonot, Fahima called the Shin Bet security service a "terror organization." She said she spent her time in jail watching the Al-Jazeera Arab satellite channel and being "cynical" with her interrogators.