Palestinian Stone-throwers Can Now Face Detention Without Bail Until End of Proceedings

Jerusalem court extends detention for two stone throwers, following release of new set of guidelines that call for harsher punishments for stone throwers.

Nir Hasson
Nir Hasson
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Palestinian protester throws a stone towards Israeli troops during clashes near Ramallah, May 15, 2015.
Palestinian protester throws a stone towards Israeli troops during clashes near Ramallah, May 15, 2015.Credit: Reuters
Nir Hasson
Nir Hasson

Prosecutors must now ask for detention until the end of legal proceedings for nearly all suspects charged with throwing stones, under orders issued Wednesday by State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan.

Nitzan is implementing nationwide the policy adopted over the past year by the Jerusalem District Attorney’s Office, under which every time suspected stone throwers are indicted, the prosecutors ask for the suspect to be held until the end of the case. Stone-throwing charges can be filed against suspects as young as 12.

“The stone-throwing phenomenon is characterized by the creation of a palpable risk of bodily harm and property damage,” Nitzan said. “Very often this violation is committed out of an ideological worldview, and is liable to be the first step toward more serious terror activity.”

State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan speaks at Bar-Ilan University, December 25, 2014.Credit: Moti Milrod

Nevertheless, Nitzan distinguished between two types of stone-throwing. In the case of life-threatening violations, like throwing stones at vehicles traveling on the roads, detention until the end of legal proceedings should be requested routinely.

In less serious instances, like throwing stones at policemen shielded during a demonstration, other factors may be considered before making the request. The greatest weight will be given to the circumstances of the crime – if a slingshot was used, if a number of stones were thrown, and if the stone-throwing was spontaneous or planned. Only after these issues are decided will the age of the suspect be a factor.

Regarding punishments, the new regulation expands the new law passed recently that defines two categories of sentencing for those throwing stones at vehicles. The first, carrying a sentence of up to 10 years, refers to anyone throwing a stone or object at a vehicle to inspire fear or panic, but isn’t liable to cause real harm to the vehicle or its passengers. This category would include, for example, those throwing stones at the Jerusalem light rail, whose windows are reinforced.

The second, more serious category, which carries a sentence of up to 20 years’ imprisonment, involves those who threw stones to cause grievous bodily harm, with a high probability that someone could be hurt.

The new guidelines were written with the help of Nurit Litman, the Jerusalem district prosecutor for criminal cases. In the last year her office has indicted hundreds of Palestinians, mostly minors, for rioting and stone-throwing, and become much more aggressive in requesting extended detention and harsher sentences.

Defense lawyers and welfare officials argue that lengthy detention reduces the chances of minors abandoning violence and often pressures them to confess so as to avoid a lengthy incarceration. Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court Wednesday extended custody for two Palestinians, ages 12 and 13, by 12 hours after they’d been arrested two nights before for allegedly throwing stones at cars on the road Jerusalem-Ma’aleh Adumim road.

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