The Israel Police wanted to deport a Palestinian who faced a death sentence for collaborating with Israel from the Palestinian Authority, despite a district court ruling that he should be allowed to stay in Israel.
After the head of the police prosecution unit, Brig. Gen. Dado Zamir, issued the deportation order, the Courts Administration’s legal adviser filed an unprecedented complaint to the ombudsman who handles complaints against the prosecution.
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Zamir argued that the district court had no authority to issue its ruling. Dan Eldad, the former acting state prosecutor, agreed with him and added that information must sometimes be concealed from the courts.
The ombudsman, David Rozen, lambasted Zamir, writing that his conduct “created the impression that court rulings are decisions on paper only.”
The Palestinian, Awad, has been threatened by the PA for 17 years, and Israel therefore granted him a residency permit. (For privacy purposes, Awad's full name is being withheld). In mid-2019, however, a special Defense Ministry panel for examining collaborators’ claims of being threatened decided that Awad was no longer in danger.
The panel cited intelligence information as the basis for this finding, and also noted that Awad has been involved in crimes. It therefore gave him six months to arrange his departure from Israel.
The six months passed and Awad still hadn’t left, so police indicted him for being in Israel illegally and asked that he be held without bail. The Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court agreed to this request In January, but about a month later it released him to a hostel, subject to certain restrictions. Police then appealed this decision to the Tel Aviv District Court, which upheld Awad’s release.
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In their rulings, both courts also noted that Awad would be in danger if returned to the PA.
Police then retracted the indictment and instead decided to deport him immediately. The magistrate’s court issued a 72-hour stay of execution, during which time Awad’s public defenders, Michal Rubinstein and Rona Shwartz, filed an administrative appeal against the deportation.
In his ruling on the stay, Judge Daniel Beeri termed the police prosecution’s behavior “inappropriate” and “scandalous.”
The Courts Administration’s legal adviser, Barak Lazer, then filed a complaint to the ombudsman.
During the ombudsman’s hearings on the case, it emerged that the person who ordered police to withdraw the indictment and deport Awad was Zamir himself, the head of the police prosecution. Zamir wrote that his decision was based on the Defense Ministry panel’s conclusion, and this should take precedence, because the courts “have only bits of information and aren’t exposed to the whole picture.”
He also said the decision to stay the deportation for 72 hours was handed down “illegally and without authority,” adding that he had ordered police to ask the court to reconsider its decision. His reason for saying the court lacked authority was because its finding that Awad’s return to the PA would endanger him contradicted the conclusion of the Defense Ministry panel.
When he submitted his response to the ombudsman, Zamir also attached a letter of support from Eldad. Eldad wrote that the decision to withdraw the indictment and deport Awad was a “correct professional judgment.” Moreover, he said, information sometimes has to be hidden from the courts.
“We as prosecutors aren’t always allowed to present all our considerations to the court,” Eldad wrote. As an example, he cited, “a situation in which we have information that rules out any possibility of according credibility to a suspect or defendant, but the law doesn’t allow us to reveal this information to the court, for fear of undermining the suspect or defendant’s rights or to protect the sources of the information.”
But Rozen rejected the arguments made by both Zamir and Eldad and ruled that Lazer’s complaint was justified. He said the police could have deported Awad before they filed the indictment, but the moment they indicted him, they were bound the courts’ decisions.
If police objected to those decisions, he continued, the correct response was either to appeal them to a higher court or ask the original court to rehear the issue. By instead deciding to withdraw the indictment, police sought “to create a bypass road around those decisions, while denying their existence. This is unacceptable.”