There is not enough evidence to disqualify Sakhnin party, High Court says

Chief Justice Dorit Beinish argued that while there is crime called "supporting terror," it is a criminal issue and has nothing to do with disqualifying a political party.

The High Court of Justice told a watchdog group on Wednesday that it didn't have enough evidence to demonstrate that a Sakhnin political party - which fielded a council candidate linked to a suicide bombing - supported terrorism or should be disqualified. While the justices did not issue a ruling, they appeared during Wednesday's hearing to favor the arguments of the defendants, the Sakhnin Democratic Front, which won three seats in the November 11 elections. A ruling is expected any day. The Jerusalem-based Movement for Quality Government in Israel filed a Supreme Court petition Thursday to retroactively disqualify the party, arguing that it "highlighted and praised" one of its candidate's involvement in an April 2002 terrorist attack. The candidate, Taghrid Sa'adi, served six years in prison and was released earlier this year. She withdrew from the city council race when the watchdog group filed a High Court petition against her candidacy two days before the election. That petition said that she concealed her conviction on her candidacy form. The Movement for Quality Government now contends that the party praised Sa'adi's involvement in the terror attack with a large sign in a central square that featured her photo and read "Vote for the Prisoner of Freedom." Hassan Jabareen, the attorney who represented the Sakhnin party, said following the hearing that the petitioners "argue that it should be disqualified as a terrorist list but all that they have is one piece of evidence…that they called this [woman] a prisoner of freedom. "This is a very extreme petition to come and disqualify a democratic list that believes in coexistence…just because they use this phrase 'prisoner of freedom,'" Jabareen said. "You saw the attitude of the judges, they didn't want to intervene," said attorney Eliad Shraga, chairman of The Movement for Quality Government in Israel after the hearing. "The facts are very clear and nobody denies that these are the facts; a party in Sakhnin that ran for elections is carrying the flag of terrorism. They are supporting the acts of this lady" who was convicted. Chief Justice Dorit Beinish argued that while there is crime called "supporting terror," it is a criminal issue and has nothing to do with disqualifying a political party. She also told the petitioners that they could go to the police and ask them to open an investigation on the issue. If police collect enough evidence, they would submit a criminal indictment, she said. Sa'adi, 28, was convicted and sentenced to six years in prison for maintaining contact with a foreign agent - a West Bank terrorist - who solicited her help in carrying out a suicide attack. According to the Local Authorities Election Law, anyone sentenced to at least three months in jail may not run for office for seven years from the end of the jail term, unless he applies for a ruling from the elections chairman that the crime he committed did not involve moral turpitude. In 2001, Sa'adi made contact with a Hebron resident who was a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, according to charges cited in court documents. In March 2002, the Palestinian terrorist told Sa'adi of his intention to carry out a terrorist attack against Israelis and to dispatch suicide bombers. He solicited her help in sneaking the terrorists into Israel as well as her advice concerning crowded areas. In April 2002, the Hebron man recruited a young woman to carry out an attack, and he arranged for Sa'adi to transport her from Jerusalem to Haifa, where the attack was originally supposed to take place. However, hours beforehand, Sa'adi said she could not make it because her mother had been hospitalized. She was told that the attack would take place anyway; she then spoke to the female suicide bomber by phone and bid her farewell. In the end, however, the bomber stayed in Jerusalem, and on April 12, 2002, she blew herself up at the Mahane Yehuda market. Sa'adi spoke to the bomber that day, according to the court documents. Sa'adi continued to have contact with the PFLP activist after the attack and decorated her room with slogans glorifying the bomber, the documents said. Dan Izenberg contributed to this report.