A 12-year-old Palestinian girl serving a four-and-half-month sentence in Israeli prison will be released early, the Israel Prison Service said Monday, following an official request by her parents and a public campaign for her release.
IPS Chief Commissioner Ofra Klinger has decided that D, believed to be the youngest female prisoner ever incarcerated by Israel, will be freed on April 24, about two-and-a-half months after being jailed.
D. was convicted in a plea bargain in February of attempted voluntary manslaughter and illegal possession of a knife by a military court on February 18. Under the deal her parents have two months to pay an 8,000 shekel fine (about $2,000).
According to the indictment, she set out to stab a Jew on February 9. She was apprehended at the entrance to the settlement of Karmei Tzur, where a security guard ordered her to kneel. She then pulled out a knife she had hidden under her shirt, at the guard’s request. She showed no resistance.
The girl's parents appealed her arrest on grounds that it violated Israeli and international legal norms, also arguing that the case was one of discrimination against Palestinians, as Israeli law bars the incarceration of minors younger than 14 for the country's own citizens.
Their appeal was reinforced by a public campaign, with over a thousand Israeli Jews and Arabs signing a petition calling for the girl's release. "It's no coincidence that Israeli law doesn't allow a prison sentence for minors under the age of 14. The gap between military law and Israeli law in this is intolerable, and in D.'s case could lead to irreversible damage," the petition said.
The family's attorney Abir Bachar also argued that contrary to what the Israeli Prison Services have said, the girl is being held in a prison alongside adult Palestinian prisoners. Since she has been classified as a security prisoner, the girl also faces many restrictions and has, for example, been denied any visits by a social worker.
Bachar said the girl met with her mother only on March 28, nearly two months after being jailed. The session lasted 45 minutes with no physical contact.
The attorney said that if it weren't for the plea bargain the girl may not have gone to prison at all.
A welfare coordinator for the Civil Administration told the court that her impression is this is a lonely girl who received no attention from her parents, and who never received necessary treatment for her learning disorders.
"The extraordinary light heartedness about sending a young girl of only 12 to prison shows the arbitrariness of the military legal system when it comes to Palestinian minors," Bachar told Haaretz.
"The military court could have rejected the plea bargain and instead ordered treatment for the girl's special needs.
"And may I add that had she been named Rachel, and came from a nearby settlement, the law would have kept her from being placed behind bars," Bachar said.