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Analysis: Israel's prisoner dilemma
Cat : Palestine
Date : 2006-09-13 14:13:20                      Reader : 272
It is in fact eye by eye , tooth by tooth, as stated in holy Books the Bible as well as Quran .

UPI 13/9/2006

Analysis: Israel's prisoner dilemma


UPI Israel Correspondent
TEL AVIV, Israel, Sept. 12 (UPI) -- A military court Tuesday ordered the release of Hamas ministers and legislators whom Israel arrested shortly after Palestinian militants kidnapped a soldier and took him to Gaza in a possible effort to thaw tense relations.

The court stayed implementation until Thursday so that the prosecution may appeal the decision. A military spokeswoman said later the prosecution will appeal the case and defense attorney Jawad Boulous feared a higher echelon will turn the tables. "I am not far from believing that is what is going to happen," he told United Press International.

The arrests seemed like an attempt to create a sizeable, high profile bank of hostages in order to pressure Hamas militants to release the abducted soldier, Cpl. Gilad Shalit.

Those arrests began on June 29, four days after the kidnapping. The Israelis rounded up Deputy Prime Minister Naser Eddin Shaer, Local Governance Minister Issa Ja'abari, Wakf Minister Nayef Rajoub, the Minister for Jerusalem Affairs Khaled Abu Arafeh, Finance Minister Omar Abdul Razek, along with the Legislative Council's Speaker Azziz Dweik, 27 members of parliament and the Council's secretary.

The prosecution charged them with membership and working for an illegal organization. Israel, like the United States, considers Hamas to be a terrorist organization.

In a surprise ruling, the deputy president of the Judea Military Court, Maj. Ronen Atzmon, said the prima facie showed that 21 ministers and legislators standing trial there were indeed members of an illegal organization. The finance minister and 12 of the legislators are standing trial in another court, in Salem, near Jenin.

Atzmon decided to release the prisoners in his court, at Camp Ofer south of Ramallah, because the elections to the Palestinian Legislative Council were held under an agreement with Israel, the parties running in it were known to all, and Israel could have legally acted to bloc their participation.

Citing the government's website, Atzmon quoted Prime Minister Ehud Olmert as having said that Hamas' participation in the elections is "not to our liking," which means he knew it was running.

What Atzmon did not say is that Israel bowed to U.S. pressure to allow democratic elections.

The court noted that the security forces were under orders to restrict Hamas election campaign materials in Jerusalem but not elsewhere in the West Bank, did not order the Hamas' candidates arrest and did not arrest the Hamas legislators even after the January elections.

Moreover, in June the Interior Ministry summoned the Hamas legislators who live in East Jerusalem and warned them to resign or risk losing their right to live in Jerusalem. They were not arrested at that time, the court noted.

"Under the circumstances... (the legislators) had the right to understand that Israel lets them compete in the elections, and be elected... Decency requires that this prevents the authorities from putting them on trial for having participated in the elections," the court added.

The same applies for ministers of the Hamas-led Cabinet. They could have assumed that "even if they are appointed by that (Hamas) list, that that would not justify criminal charges against them," Atzmon wrote.

"There is no proof that the accused were directly connected to an increase or a worsening (of terror) activities" so they cannot be deemed more dangerous since the elections or since March, when the Hamas-led government was formed.

Atzmon ruled on a request to extent the ministers and legislators' remand, not on the charge sheet, so the trial is still on. That is why the court ordered them released on bail.

Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh welcomed the decision. Some Palestinians thought it was an Israeli gesture, possibly part of some grand scheme. The director of the Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group, Bassem Eid, noted it is "rare that a military court releases Hamas people." Eid said he believed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas would try to present the ruling as an achievement that he himself obtained.

Boulous said military courts are usually strict; there are no military judges who are easy on the accused and "we're not going to seek justice there," it's clear. He was concerned the court rejected his other arguments to let his clients go. Those were "the important ones," he said. One of them was that the accused have parliamentary immunity and that could affect the outcome of the entire trial.

Israeli security experts were scathing. Dvorah Chen, who had been the director of the Department of Security Matters and Special Affairs in the Justice Ministry and was Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti's prosecutor, told UPI the reasons the court used were based on fairly recent rulings and prima facie evidence so she was "almost certain that the appeal would be accepted."

Col. in the reserves Yoni Fighel, who had been the military governor of the West Bank towns of Ramallah, Jenin and Tul Karem, and is now a senior researcher at the Institute for Counter Terrorism in Herzliya, told UPI it would be "folly" not to hold the Hamas detainees as "bargaining cards."

Their arrest, in an attempt to fight terror and secure Shalit's return was, "Proper... If they kidnap then we, too, arrest," he said.

The United States and European countries arrest people suspected of membership in terrorist organizations. An Israeli military court "must implement the Israeli government's policy. It doesn't live in a vacuum," he said.

The arrested men are recognized Hamas people who support terror attacks, their political platform seeks to destroy Israel and establish an Islamic state throughout the land.

Their release would be a shot in the arm to Hamas rather than help Abbas reorganize his Fatah camp that wants peace with Israel, Fighel said.

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