'Bad Faith': Judge Slams Israel for West Bank Arrest of Professor, Orders Release

Judge criticizes authorities' handling of case, rejects demand that he be immediately deported

Professor Frank Romano in court in Jerusalem on September 16, 2018.
Emil Salman

The Jerusalem Magistrate's Court on Sunday ordered the release of Professor Frank Romano from custody under the condition that he leave Israel by September 25, the date of his scheduled flight back to France.

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Romano, 66, who holds both French and American citizenship and teaches law in France, arrested on suspicion of disrupting the actions of Israeli soldiers on duty at the Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar on Friday.

Judge Chavi Toker rejected the government's request to immediately expel Romano from the country and criticized the way authorities handled the request. The professor is expected to remain in custody pending another hearing to be held on Monday.

>> Khan al-Ahmar ruling gives green light for mass expulsion of Bedouin villages | Analysis

Judge Toker said that the police, military and Interior Ministry "acted in bad faith" and "refused to take responsibility for the appellant." She noted that the court was not told of the military's decision to the Population Authority for his immediate deportation, calling this an attempt to bypass a hearing.

Toker added that Romano "stopped a tractor in the middle of the road," saying that "this happens a hundred times a day in Jerusalem. He is not a dangerous man."

Romano was arrested together with two Palestinian activists for attempting to block the road and get in the way of security forces.

According to military law, which is enforced in the territories, a suspect’s detention can be extended by 96 hours before being brought to a judge.

According to the civil code, detainees must be brought before a judge no more than 24 hours after their arrest. 

Gabi Lasky, Romano's attorney, told Haaretz that it is very rare for military code to be used on foreign citizens and that she has encountered only one such other case in the past. Theoretically, Romano could have been arrested under the civil code, because the suspected infraction is supposedly against the authorities of the state.

Lasky said earlier Sunday that the intent was to bring Romano for a “regular” remand hearing before a Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court judge. But shortly before the hearing the security forces said that Romano was to be released and deported and so he would not be brought to court, although the hearing did ultimately take place.

“Like thieves in the night, instead of bringing Frank Romano to a hearing on my request that he be released from detention, which was set for today [Sunday] at the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court, without informing me or the court, at 2 PM [two hours before the scheduled hearing] he was handed over to the immigration police for deportation. Now it is clear why he was arrested according to military law – to give them time to deport him before he sees a judge.”