Court upholds Hamas man's admin. detention

Mahmoud Masalani "poses threat to regional security and public," High court finds.

torture shackles prison 390 (photo credit: Thinkstock)
torture shackles prison 390
(photo credit: Thinkstock)
The High Court of Justice on Wednesday rejected a petition by a Palestinian detainee to overturn a military court ruling extending his administrative detention.
Mahmoud Adib Mahmoud Masalani petitioned the High Court after the military court of appeals refused to overturn a military court ruling to extend his detention until May 27.
The panel of justices – Edna Arbel, Neal Handel and Zvi Zilbertal – said that after a careful review of the evidentiary material, they believed Masalani posed a threat to regional security and to the public. Therefore, they said, the decision to extend his administrative detention was correct.
However, the justices added that should no further evidentiary material be found against him, the military court should consider his release. Masalani, 38, is a Hamas activist who previously served 17-and-a-half years in prison for stabbing a Border Police officer in Jerusalem.
After his release in September 2010, he returned to work for Hamas, the security forces said.
Masalani was rearrested in April 2011, and when security officers interrogated him, he denied the allegations.
At that time, the military court ruled to hold him in administrative detention after the security services testified that classified intelligence reports indicated he posed a threat to regional security. Since then, the military court has periodically ruled to extend his administrative detention.
In the latest military court hearing in February, the court found that evidentiary material the security services had presented was reliable and indicated that, if released, Masalani posed a real danger to regional security and public safety.
In the petition, Masalani’s lawyer, Jamil Khatib, complained that the military court routinely rejected appeals against administrative detention orders.
As Masalani’s defense counsel, Khatib requested permission to review the classified intelligence material concerning his client, in order to formulate a reasonable defense.
He also told the High Court that Masalani was suffering from a psychiatric complaint, and that he wished to marry and live a normal life.
The attorney further asked the court why other more prominent individuals who were also involved in the activities attributed to Masalani had not been arrested.
Attorney Uri Keydar, representing the state, argued that there was no place for the High Court to intervene in the military court ruling, because the security services had gathered reliable, classified intelligence regarding Masalani that provided the basis for assessing the risk he posed to regional security.
Administrative detention, the state argued, was the only effective way to prevent the serious danger Masalani posed.
Wednesday’s ruling came days after the court also refused petitions by two detainees on hunger strike, Bilal Diab and Thaer Halahleh, which led some human rights groups to criticize Israel’s practice of administrative detention.
On Tuesday, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas warned of a “backlash” should any of the detainees on hunger strike die.
In Wednesday’s ruling, the justices gave a thorough legal review of the administrative detention procedures and regulations, including the issue of secret evidence.
Arbel noted that the military court was empowered to order administrative detention under the 2007 Order Regarding Administrative Detentions (Temporary Order), which allows the commander of IDF forces in the region to order a person detained for a maximum of six months, if there were reasonable grounds to believe that regional security or public safety required it.
While detentions can be extended periodically for no more than six months each time, the 2007 order stipulates that this may only happen if deemed “essential for security reasons.”
“The reason for administrative detention is to prevent future threats to state security or public safety,” Arbel said, noting that this differed from usual criminal legal proceedings, which aimed to punish for past events.
The justice added that administrative detention was often based on evidentiary material that, while justifying detention, was not admissible as evidence in a criminal trial.
That material, she continued, is frequently classified defense material that cannot be revealed to the detainee or to his counsel, because to do so could compromise either state security or that of intelligence sources.
While that does make it difficult for a detainee to mount a defense, Arbel said the High Court had previously found that secret evidence was a necessary tool.
She added that the High Court routinely reviewed the classified material used as the basis for administrative detentions, with “care and attention to the necessary balance between protecting the public and national security, and the detainee’s freedom and dignity.”