Israel Holds Palestinian Minister After IDF Judge Orders His Release

Jamil Barghouti, arrested during a demonstration on Saturday, claims police singled him out in advance.

Chaim Levinson
Chaim Levinson
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Israeli forces confront Palestinians at a demonstration on Mar. 20, 2015.
Israeli forces confront Palestinians at a demonstration on Mar. 20, 2015.Credit: AFP
Chaim Levinson
Chaim Levinson

Israeli authorities arrested a Palestinian minister and kept him in jail even after an Israel Defense Force's judge ruled that there was no evidence he had broken the law and ordered his immediate release.

Police arrested Minister Jamil Barghouti, the head of the Palestinian Authority committee against the separation barrier and settlements, during a demonstration on Saturday.

Barghouti was participating in a festival in the village of Nabi Saleh, outside Ramallah. The village has been in conflict in recent years with the Jewish settlement of Neve Tzuf. During the event, the crowd began marching toward the settlement, but were stopped by IDF soldiers and police. At a certain point Barghouti waved a Palestinian flag. Several policemen surrounded him and arrested him.

According to Barghouti, the policemen had singled him out in advance and were talking among themselves about wanting to arrest him. Barghouti replaced Ziad Abu Ein – who died in December after a run-in with soldiers at a demonstration near Ramallah – as head of the PA committee.

Israeli authorities and the PA differ on the cause of Abu Ein’s death: The former say the autopsy suggested he died of a heart attack, whereas Palestinian officials claim he was killed after being struck by and inhaling tear gas.

After Barghouti's arrest, the local IDF commander ordered his release. Officers at the police station, however, demanded that conditions be set for his release – including posting a 5,000-shekel ($1,250) bond, a five-day house arrest and a ban against participating in demonstrations for five to 10 days.

The police assert the conditions were justified because he ignored the prohibition against entering a closed military zone. Likewise, the police presented a film clip depicting the arrest.

However, IDF Judge Shmuel Kedar ruled on the basis of the footage that Barghouti had done nothing illegal, and even if there had been any sort of misconduct, the order the police sought was invalid. Kedar added that there was no reason to continue holding Barghouti under arrest, and ordered his immediate release.

The military prosecution in West Bank, headed by Col. Morris Hirsch, defied the release order and held Barghouti until 8 P.M. An appeal was scheduled for Monday, with Hirsch insisting that Barghouti post a 5,000-shekel bond as a guarantee that he will appear in court.

The IDF spokesman has yet to comment on the case.

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