Attorneys for Hezbollah men: Clients should be given POW status
All 3 charged with membership of terror organization; one charged for alleged role in July 12 abduction of soldiers.
The attorneys for three Hezbollah guerrillas indicted by Israel on criminal charges said Monday that their clients are not bound by the laws of the land and deserve to be granted the status of prisoners of war.
The three - Mahmoud Ali Suleiman, Mohammed Sarur and Mahar Qurani - were charged at Nazareth District Court earlier Monday with membership in a terrorist organization, providing services to an unlawful association, undergoing illegal military training, and unlawful use of weapons.
Suleiman and Qurani have been members of Hezbollah since 1998, and Sarur joined the organization in 2004. They have all served as fighters in the organization, having undergone military training in Iran.
They were also charged with attempted murder, attempted kidnapping, and conspiracy to commit a crime, charges relating to their alleged participation in previous Hezbollah attempted operations, including one in the village of Ghager in 2005.
It was not immediately clear how the defendants would plead to the charges, which could carry lengthy prison sentences.
Attorney Smadar Ben-Nathan, who, along with Itay Hermlin, is representing the three men, said that the prisoners are Lebanese civilians who fought against Israel in armed combat.
Hermlin also challenged the legitimacy of the criminal procedure, saying that "Hezbollah must be defeated on the battleground and not in criminal court."
He said that efforts to present the accused men as criminals instead of as fighters, only demeaned the IDF soldiers who fought against them.
"In times of war, just as IDF soldiers are allowed to harm them, they are also allowed to harm IDF soldiers," he said.
Suleiman is accused of murder and kidnap due to his alleged involvement in the July 12 raid in the Israeli border village of Zar'it, in which two Israel Defense Forces soldiers were kidnapped and another eight were killed. The abduction of reservists Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev sparked the onset of the 34-day Lebanon conflict.
Suleiman is accused of acting as part of several cells deployed to ambush the IDF soldiers who entered Lebanon to chase down their comrades' kidnappers.
Hermlin said that anti-tank missiles found in the possession of Sarur were not held for the purpose of harming Israel, but rather for the purpose of defending his village.
"The reasons for holding a criminal process are unclear," he said.
But the director of the criminal department in the Northern District prosecutors' office, Mirit Stern, said that the case at hand does not legally meet the requirements to declare the three prisoners of war, as they did not act according to the rules and traditions of war.
According to her, "illegal fighters" have been brought to trial in the past, and this is a routine procedure.