'Revoke citizenship of man convicted of aiding terrorist'

A group of bereaved families who lost loved ones in a 2003 Haifa suicide bus-bombing ask Yishai to revoke citizenship of man who drove bomber to his target.

Eli Yishai 311 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Eli Yishai 311
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
On Tuesday – one day after the Knesset passed a law authorizing the revocation of citizenship from people convicted of crimes against the state – a group of bereaved families sent a letter to interior Minister Eli Yishai asking that he apply the new law.
The families, who lost their loved ones in a Haifa suicide bus-bombing in 2003, asked Yishai to revoke the citizenship of Munir Rajbi, who was convicted of assisting an enemy in war, and sentenced to a life sentence.
Rajbi was part of a Hamas cell from Hebron. His brother drove the bomber to the location of the explosion.
“We turn to you, the Interior Minister, demanding that you immediately instruct the court to revoke the citizenship of Munir Rajbi,” the letter stated. “This ungodly person is responsible for the murder of 17 Israelis, nine of them teenagers who were on their way home from school. The state must revoke his citizenship at once and withdraw his rights as an Israeli citizen. This act will add to the public’s protection and the state’s deterrence in the face of those who live among us and seek our demise.”
Yossi Tzur, who lost his 17-year-old son, Assaf, in the bombing, said that the families were involved in Rajbi’s legal proceedings since the beginning of the police investigation against him, following the bombing.
Tzur said Rajbi had known about the bombing in advance, and had provided intelligence to the cell’s members in Hebron.
“He had lived in Haifa for 15 years and used his knowledge of the city to help the bombers choose the most effective route to attack,” said Tzur.
Tzur said that once the new law was passed, the families immediately wanted it enforced against Rajbi.
The law, sponsored by Israel Beiteinu MKs David Rotem and Robert Ilatov, is a diluted version of an earlier bill submitted to the previous Knesset, and aims to add punishment to Israelis who were involved in crimes of terrorism, espionage, aiding an enemy and treason.
Upon its passing (37-10), Rotem said: “Anyone who betrays the country or commits an act of terrorism against its citizens, will know that citizenship and loyalty go hand-in-hand.”
Israel Beiteinu Chairman, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, said that “Any person who harms the country cannot enjoy the benefits of citizenship and its fruit. The law will help confront the phenomenon by which there are those who take advantage of our democracy in order to undermine it, and by which those who are called citizens collaborate with the enemy.”
What remains far from certain, however, is whether the law applies to Rajbi.
The law, an amendment to the Citizenship Law enacted in 1952, states that the court can revoke the citizenship of a person convicted of acts of terror at the request of the Interior Minister – provided that the person does not remain without citizenship altogether. If the person has no other citizenship, then the court must instruct the Minister to grant him a residency permit.
Even before the new law was passed, the Interior Minister had the power to revoke a person’s citizenship for state treason, subject to the Attorney General’s approval. However, the authority has seldom been used, and has never been challenged in court.
According to Oded Feller, legal counsel for the Association of Civil Rights, the penalty of revoking citizenship can only be applied as part of a criminal legal proceeding, and not as an independent action. He said that since Rajbi had already been convicted and sentenced, it is impossible to request the court to revoke his citizenship as well.
The Association was against the bill from the start, arguing that revoking citizenship is too extreme an act for the state to take. It claimed that there were sufficient penalties already in existence in the penal code to the same offenses, and that revoking citizenship is a “primitive sanction.”
Yishai has yet to respond to the families’ letter. His communications advisor told The Jerusalem Post that the Minister had received the letter and transferred it over to the Ministry’s legal counsel for examination, before proceeding.
The amendment’s co-sponsor, Robert Ilatov, said “the law cannot be enacted retroactively, so as to apply to Rajbi. In order to do so, further amendments to the law would be required.”
Tzur said “Rajbi is currently serving a life sentence in prison. We hope that his sentence is not shortened and that he will never go free. If he does go free, we think he should be deported to Gaza or the West Bank or Lebanon. There is no reason that he will enjoy the benefits provided by the state, when he chose to join those who are our enemies.”