Sixteen Palestinian prisoners who had been released in the 2011 Gilad Shalit prisoner-exchange deal were brought to the Ofer military court in the West Bank on Thursday, where the state demanded they be sent back to prison.
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On June 18, following the abduction of three Israeli teens on June 12, all 58 prisoners who had been released in the Shalit deal and live in the West Bank were detained.
Only a few dozen of the first 450 prisoners had been allowed to return to their West Bank homes. Others were deported to Qatar and Gaza as punishment, while the Gazan residents returned there.
During the court sessions, it transpired that, on June 10, two days before the abduction, the released prisoners had come to the office of the Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories to sign a document.
The General Security Services coordinators who were there commended them for having gone straight and encouraged them to continue this way. Despite this, they were arrested a week later.
In one case, the military court asked for the summary reports of a prisoner’s meeting with the security services officials, to try and understand how a man could turn into a criminal in one week.
So far, six detainees have been returned to prison and seven others were released pending a final decision.
The former prisoners were arrested following a cabinet decision to return them to prison following the teens’ abduction.
The arrests were based on an order issued in 2008, enabling to return prisoners to jail for the remainder of their term if they commit a criminal offense liable for a prison term of three months or longer.
A panel of military judges issued the verdict on the basis of administrative evidence, some of it classified. The process does not require a criminal conviction, only administrative evidence to return them to prison.
The prisoners had all signed a document listing the terms of their pardon before their release.
Six of the prisoners, who are residents of Israel, were sent back to prison at the ruling of a parole board in the Nazareth District Court, while the remaining cases are being conducted in military court.
The Military Advocate General’s office is bringing criminal offenses against the detainees, in order to justify sending them back to prison.
For example, Na’al Barghouti had been sentenced to life imprisonment in 1978 for murdering an Israel Defense Forces officer. Over the years, he had become the most veteran security prisoner and was something of a symbol to the other inmates.
After his release, Barghouti married and went to university. He did not resume terrorist activity. MAG claimed he is associated with a terror organization because Hamas had offered him the post of minister for prisoners’ affairs in the Palestinian unity government.
Ultimately, MAG dropped this charge and now says Barghouti had spoken at a conference organized by Hamas’ students cell.
Barghouti’s attorney, Merav Houri, said representatives of other organizations had also attended the conference.
At Thursday’s court session, military prosecutor Lt. Col. Maurice Hirsch, a settler from Efrat, said Barghouti “now admits taking part in a meeting of an illicit organization. [The court] must now decide to return him to prison.”
The military judges said they would hand their verdict at the end of the procedure. An angry Hirsch filed an appeal against their decision not to decide immediately.
Another detainee, Naif Shwarmah, was accused of leaving his residential area and attempting to cross the border to Jordan. In court, it transpired that he had done so some 18 months before his arrest. Shwarmah wanted to go to Mecca, but was refused passage at the border and returned home. No steps were taken against him for this incident until the cabinet’s decision to arrest him.
MAG’s main charges focus on the prisoners receiving a grant from Hamas, via the al-Noor association, to help them start their life out of prison.
The charges are based on classified material, so not all details have been released.