Israeli Police Say Palestinian Must Prove He Owns Land From Which His Olives Were Stolen

The Palestinian claims that the olives, from which he makes a living, were held by the police for two weeks without him being informed

Illustrative photo: A Palestinian harvests olives in the West Bank.
REUTERS

For two weeks, the Judea and Samaria District Police has been holding the olives from 200 trees owned by a Palestinian in the northern West Bank that are suspected of being stolen by a settler from the Adei Ad outpost. Two days ago, the Palestinian was informed by the police that the theft is being investigated and that a settler from the outpost has been arrested on suspicion of the theft. A source says the olives were seized at the time of the arrest.

The police asked the Jerusalem District Court to extend the suspects’ detention, but the judge released him with restrictive conditions, including an order that he stay away from the area of the olive orchard. An officer with the Binyamin District investigations and intelligence departments says the olive crop “is being held by the Israel Police.” The police document given to the Palestinian says he must present “land ownership or custody documents” to retrieve the crop, and that “the sooner he can bring these documents, the sooner the seized crop will be released to him.”

The Palestinian’s lawyer, Kamer Mashraqi of Haqel: Jews and Arabs in Defense of Human Rights, argued that to prove ownership of the land, an official opinion from the state is required, and that the police already has this. But at the court hearing, the police representative said the owner had been identified, and filed the complaint, and “we also coordinated it so the owner of the plot could do the olive harvest today without there being friction between the sides.” Haqel confirmed that the scheduled harvest took place.

The Palestinian claims that the olives, from which he makes a living, were held by the police for two weeks without him being informed. The police told Haaretz that once the theft complaint was filed, the Palestinian was told that they had the olives and that he had to prove his ownership of the land to get them back.

But the Palestinian tells Haaretz this is not true. And his lawyer says she was not informed of this when she was in contact with the investigators. Both the Palestinian and his attorney say that the first time the police asked them to present documents was when the official message was sent to them a few days ago.

The police tell Haaretz that the investigation of the incident is ongoing, and that they requested that the suspect’s detention be extended, but the court released him to house arrest. In her decision about the release, the vice president of the Jerusalem District Court wrote, “There is a reasonable suspicion that the respondent committed the offense ascribed to him.”

The police wanted to charge him with criminal trespassing, disturbing a public worker and damaging an object of cultural value. The judge was critical of these choices: “Like the defense attorney, I wonder if these are the appropriate charges,” she wrote. Though she also said, “I have not been convinced that any of the legal pretexts for arrest exist here, even if there were other people there, there is no reason his release should obstruct the investigation and to the degree that the respondent presents any danger it can be addressed with house arrest.”

The suspect’s lawyer, Nati Rom of Honenu, tells Haaretz: “My client denies involvement in the incident and his release was ordered by the court in two different forums.”