Youngest Female Palestinian Jailed by Israel Released Two-and-a-half Months After Arrest

12-year-old girl was convicted in a plea bargain in February of attempted voluntary manslaughter and illegal possession of a knife by a military court.

D. with her mother after being released by prison, April 23, 2016.
Abed Omar Qusini, Reuters

A 12-year-old Palestinian girl convicted of attempting to stab an Israeli was released from prison on Sunday and returned to her family, two-and-a-half months after becoming the youngest female Palestinian ever incarcerated by Israel. 

D. was escorted by the Israel Police's Nachshon unit from Hasharon prison around noon and taken to the Jabara checkpoint near Tul Karm. She was handed over to representatives of the Palestinian Authority, including Palestinian Prisoners' Club head Issa Karaka, who then brought her to her parents at the crossing.

D. appeared to be quite relaxed and calm, and a bit surprised by the commotion surrounding her, mainly due to representatives of the Palestinian and foreign media.

The family will arrive at Halhul, near Hebron, later in the afternoon. The Palestinian Prisoners' Club will hold a press conference later in the day.

D.'s father told Haaretz that he was very excited to see his daughter, and said that "she was very happy but talked lots about the other prisoners she left behind."

D. was convicted in a plea bargain in February of attempted voluntary manslaughter and illegal possession of a knife by a military court. According to the indictment, she set out to stab a Jew, but was apprehended at the entrance to the settlement of Karmei Tzur, where a knife was found in her possession. 

According to her father, his wife visited D. about 10 days ago, and was looking forward to seeing her daughter not behind bars again. "We'll have a little party for her at the house and we'll help her, because she really needs love and a warm embrace now, after this difficult period," she said.

The decision to release D. two months before the end of her sentence was made some two weeks ago, following an official request by her parents and a public campaign for her release.

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 Israel Prison Service has 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.