Israel court sends right-wing activists charged with tracking IDF to house arrest
Ruling comes days after 5 were indicted for tracking, disrupting army operations in West Bank; Jerusalem prosecution asks delay of ruling to appeal to Supreme Court.
The Jerusalem District Court released five right-wing extremists to house arrest, days after being indicted for monitoring Israel Defense Forces operations in the West Bank in an attempt to thwart the demolition of illegal outposts.
On Sunday, the Jerusalem District Prosecutor's Office submitted a severe indictment against the five activists, charging them with tracking army movements, possession of classified military material, and orchestrating an attack by activists on an Israel Defense Forces base.
The five charged were Akiva Hacohen and Elad Meir, David Eliyahu, Effi Heikin, and Meir Ettinger.
Speaking in court on Tuesday, officials from the Hanenu NGO, which provides legal representation to the defendants, said that the five organized a legitimate protest and there was no justification to incarcerate them.
In her ruling, judge Hana Ben Ami said that "despite the circumstances surrounding the issue, [the defendants' actions] do not present a high level of danger"
"The indictment shows that the majority of their activities, beyond intelligence collection, centered around non-violent protests in areas patrolled by the military, including singing songs, dancing, and telling soldiers the actions they must take," Ben Ami added.
The five were subsequently all free to full house arrest, with the court ruling large sums of money be deposited as collateral against their release. Jerusalem prosecutors asked to court to delay their release, and the ruling's execution was postponed by 38 hours to allow the Jerusalem District Prosecutor's Office to appeal it before the Supreme Court.
On Sunday, Haaretz revealed that a list found in the defendant's possession indicated they received information on IDF actions in the West Bank from Likd MK and coalition chairman Ze'ev Elkin.
The five allegedly formed an intelligence hub based on telephone communications, utilizing 30 different sources, including active IDF service members.
However, the list of sources used by the activists and revealed to Haaretz indicated later Sunday that these sources also included Elkin.
According to police investigation materials, an unusual movement of army forces was noted by several of the intelligence hub's sources on Sunday, December 11, 2011.
Activists then suspected that it was the army's intent to demolish structures in either the Ramat Gilad or the Mitzpe Yitzhar outposts, settlements which the state was obligated to evacuate due to a High Court of Justice ruling.
Eventually no evacuation took place, but records kept by the defendants indicated that in the midst of uncertainty as to the army's movements MK Elkin reported to the group: "It isn't Ramat Gilad."
If indeed Elikn tipped off the right-wing activists, it would serve to affirm claims made by several of the defendants' aides that their activity represented legitimate and open protest, in which several MKs such as Elkin took part.
In response, Elkin told Haaretz that "since I was involved in the inner workings of the Ramat Gilad affair and there were rumors that they were going to evacuate it I checked with whomever I checked with that it wasn't true and I texted Orit Struk and [Shomron council head] Gershon Mesika about it and I think that's it."
"I said it wasn't Ramat Gilad and that the rumors that the deal is going to be undone aren't true," Elkin added.