Palestinian Moved to IDF Jail in West Bank After Court Orders His Release From Jerusalem Jail

Despite acting against court order, Jerusalem judge rules police wasn't in contempt of court when it didn't release Nasser Nawaja, a B'Tselem employee suspected of conspiring to kill a Palestinian land dealer.

Nasser Nawaja at the Jerusalem District Court, January 21, 2016.
Emil Salman

Israel Police did not act in contempt of court when instead of releasing a Palestinian employee of B'Tselem from a Jerusalem jail, as ordered to do by the court, it transferred him to a military jail in the West Bank, a Jerusalem District Court judge ruled on Friday.

Nasser Nawaja, who works as a field researcher for the leftist NGO, was arrested on Wednesday on suspicion of conspiring to cause the death of a Palestinian from the south Hebron Hills and of contact with a foreign agent. 

On Thursday, the Jerusalem District Court ordered Nawaja released, after granting his lawyers' petition that an Israeli court does not have the authority to rule in Nawaja’s case as the offense was neither committed in Israel nor security related.

According to the district court decision, the police should have released him immediately. However, instead of releasing him, the police transferred him to a military court in the West Bank, which extended his remand by four days, to be spent at the Ofer Camp, a military jail in the West Bank. 

Nawi's lawyer, Attorney Gabi Lasky, filed an urgent petition against the police for contempt of court. According to her, the police and the military court itself are jointly in contempt of the district court’s decision. 

In its response on Friday, police told the court that it acted "with good intentions" and due to suspicions of serious crimes. "Despite the ruling ordering the plaintiff's release due to lack of authority, the respondent has considered the issue and after a consultation with authorized elements – and due to the serious offences of which the plaintiff is suspected and after balancing between the need for investigating the affair while the plaintiff is under arrest and his release – the respondent turned to the military court to examine the issue, and it has extended the plaintiff's remand." 

Following the court's rejection of Nawaja's petition, his attorney intends to file an appeal with the Supreme Court.

Nawaja is also suspected of contact with a foreign agent, which raises some questions, since he is a resident of the Palestinian Authority and the foreign agent he allegedly approached were members of the Palestinian security services. In addition, Israeli defense officials are in contact with members of the PA security services on a regular basis, so it’s not clear what legal grounds there could be for such a charge. 

“For a resident of the territories, meeting with members of the Palestinian security services isn’t a crime; quite the contrary,” his attorney, Gabi Lasky, told the court on Thursday. “In this case, his obligation as a Palestinian was to give the information to the authorized body in the Palestinian Authority.”

Nawaja was arrested following a report on the investigative television program Uvda, in which Israeli left-wing activist Ezra Nawi was purportedly taped admitting to causing the deaths of Palestinians who wished to sell lands in the West Bank to Jews. 

Police has launched an investigation into Nawi as well, and he was arrested about 10 days ago. On Thursday, the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court extended Nawi's remand until Sunday, as well as that of another left-wing activist, Guy Batavia, who was arrested in relation to the affair.

Nawi's lawyers say the Palestinian land dealer Nawi is suspected of conspiring to kill actually died of natural causes.