Court: Importing Dangerous Drugs Directly to West Bank Is Legal

Ruling issued in case involving two West Bank settlers charged with bringing cannabis in from overseas for their personal use.

Bringing drugs from overseas straight into the West Bank does not violate the law against bringing dangerous drugs into Israel if the drugs never passed through Israeli territory, the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court ruled on Thursday.

The ruling was issued in a case that involved two West Bank settlers charged with bringing cannabis in from overseas for their personal use.

Ofra - Daniel Bar-On - 09032012
Daniel Bar-On

N.T., from Ofra, and R.K., from Tekoa, had confessed to bringing drugs to their settlements on numerous occasions. But the court accepted defense attorney Eli Katz's argument that in the law against "importing a dangerous drug," the word "importing" means "importing to Israel."

Nevertheless, the two were convicted of bringing the drugs into Jerusalem, since that is part of Israel.

According to the indictment, N.T. has been ordering marijuana from overseas via the Internet for the past year. The drugs arrived in shipments that were usually worth a few thousand shekels.

At some point, N.T. began worrying about having so many packages come to his house in Ofra, so last September, he began sending them to four other friends: R.K. in Tekoa plus three others in Jerusalem. In exchange for their help, he would pay them a small sum of money for each shipment.

About two months ago, he and his friends were arrested by the Shai District Police, which covers the West Bank. They were subsequently charged with several counts of "importing a dangerous drug" and "trafficking in a dangerous drug."

The prosecution argued that the drug laws apply in the West Bank as well as in Israel, and therefore, the defendants should be convicted on all counts. But Judge Haim Li-Ran agreed with Katz that the law against importing drugs applies only if the drugs were actually brought into Israel.

Therefore, unless the prosecution can prove that the drugs entered the West Bank via Israel, the defendants can't be convicted for the shipments to Ofra and Tekoa, Li-Ran said. And since "there is no mention [in the indictment] of exactly how the drugs were brought to Ofra," he wrote, the two had to be acquitted due to reasonable doubts: For instance, the drugs could have entered the West Bank from Jordan, via the Allenby Bridge.

"This isn't a a question of authority, because an Israeli court does have the authority to try crimes committed over the Green Line," Li-Ran stressed. "And that is all the more true for drug crimes, where this authority exists even if the crime was committed in another country."

Therefore, the defendants can be convicted of trafficking in drugs, he continued. But because the crime of importing drugs relates specifically to Israel, they must be acquitted on those counts.