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Court rules against Palestinian hunger strikers (JERUSALEM POST) By JOANNA PARASZCZUK 05/07/12)Source: http://www.jpost.com/NationalNews/Article.aspx?id=269004 JERUSALEM POST JERUSALEM POST Articles-Index-TopPublishers-Index-Top
The High Court of Justice rejected on Monday petitions by two hunger- striking Palestinian security prisoners to overturn a military court ruling to extend their administrative detention.

Petitioners Bilal Diab and Thaer Halahleh, both of whom are suspected of extensive involvement in terror groups, have been on hunger strike for 71 days in protest against the military court of appeals decision to extend their detention, and against the length of time they have been held without charge.

In a unanimous ruling, Justices Elyakim Rubinstein, Yoram Danziger and Noam Sohlberg said they found no reason to intervene in the military court ruling to extend both prisoners´ administrative detentions.

Rubinstein said hunger strikes should not be the single factor in any military court ruling regarding whether to impose or extend administrative detention.

However, Rubinstein criticized the security authorities for holding the detainees without interrogating them on certain issues relating to their arrest.

Rubinstein added that the administrative detentions ought to be shorter in order to allow for more frequent judicial review.

Halahleh has been in administrative detention since June 28, 2010. The military court extended that detention for a further three months on February 27.

Diab has been in administrative detention since August 16, 2011, which the military court extended by six months on February 7. He is currently hospitalized in the Assaf Harofeh hospital, where he is conscious but refusing to take fluids, the court noted.

Attorneys Jawad Boulos and Jamil Khatib, for the prisoners, argued in the High Court petition that administrative detention is a draconian measure.

They also contended that the state refuses to allow detainees´ lawyers access to classified intelligence material about their clients, which they said prevents attorneys from formulating a proper defense in military court administrative detention hearings.

In the ruling, Rubinstein said that revealing classified intelligence material about an administrative detainee could harm those who collected it, or their methods of doing so.

It was right, therefore, that the courts should be the body designated to examine that material, Rubinstein said.

However, the justice added with caution that perhaps there was room to examine the idea of having a ´trusted´ lawyer with a security clearance to double-check the classified material.

Such a lawyer could be a retired judge or senior public servant, Rubinstein suggested.

In the ruling, Rubinstein noted that classified information and military court rulings regarding both prisoners showed that they had been active in terror group Islamic Jihad.

Regarding Halahleh, the court noted that he has served previous prison terms for security offenses. The security services presented classified material to the military court that said a substantial part of his alleged activity in Islamic Jihad had been transferring funds, including from overseas, to finance the terror group´s activities.

Military court judges had written in their rulings to extend Halahleh´s detention that his activities in Islamic Jihad were serious and posed a real security threat, Rubinstein noted.

An April 23 military court ruling regarding Halahleh said that his hunger strike did not affect any assessment of his dangerousness, and that "it could be estimated with a high degree of certainty that, if released, he would endanger regional security."

For that reason the court held that there was "no reason to intervene in the current extension" of Halahleh´s administrative detention.

In the petition, Halahleh´s attorney, Jamil Khatib, argued that the authorities had not taken into consideration to the amount of time his client had been in detention and have not conducted any additional investigations into his case.

In the ruling, the justices noted that Halahleh had had been in administrative detention for nearly two years.

"Even regardless of the hunger strike, this justifies a senior-level discussion on the matter about whether to request another extension [to the detention] or whether there are better alternatives," Rubinstein said.

If the authorities deemed that extending Halahleh´s administrative detention was warranted, Rubinstein said, they must undertake a "more serious" interrogation into his case.

The state alleges that the second prisoner, Diab, is an active member of Islamic Jihad, and had acted as a senior leader in the terror group, with ties to Gaza and overseas - particularly regarding the organization´s funding, the justices said.

Diab had previously been imprisoned from 2003-2010 for security offenses, the state noted.

Classified information presented to the court also indicated that Diab had access to weaponry and showed "a willingness for military action".

In its ruling to extend Diab´s detention, the military court said his activities had been "a dangerous part of a radical terror group". The court found that Diab´s hunger strike did not justify releasing him from administrative detention.

However, Rubinstein criticized the fact that the security services had not yet interrogated Diab about his alleged access to weaponry.

"We believe, regardless of the hunger strike, that in the face of the intelligence gathered after Diab´s arrest, he should be interrogated on this issue, as far as his medical situation allows," Rubinstein said.

The justices added that, in their opinion, since the primary suspicion against Diab was terror financing, as a rule administrative detention should be for periods shorter than six months, to allow more frequent judicial review of the case.

With regard to the petitioners´ medical situation, Rubinstein also said that, even though it did not formally apply in this case, it was worth reviewing the Conditional Release Law, which states that it is possible to release a prisoner on conditional bail if his stay in prison poses a significant risk to his life.

In response to the court´s decision, the petitioners´ lawyer, Boulos said that on the margins of their ruling, the High Court justices had "dealt for the first time with the issue of the provisions of administrative detention, particularly with respect to classified material and prisoners´ medical conditions."

Physicians for Human Rights, who treated the two petitioners, slammed the ruling, calling it "the effective equivalent of handing down a death sentence."

The human rights group said there are 320 Palestinians held in administrative detention.

"The judges are tightening their hold on administrative detainees, which, due to the absence of concrete evidence, the inability of the detainee to defend himself in court and the unlimited renewal of his/her detention term, constitutes a full negation of liberties and human freedom," a spokesman for the group said.

Later on Thursday, Islamic Jihad threatened that Israel would "bear the full consequences" of the court ruling, dubbing it "a decision to execute the two prisoners, after the enemy´s frantic efforts to break their resolve and end their heroic battle," according to the Gaza- based Felesteen news site. (© 1995-2011, The Jerusalem Post 05/07/12)

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