Israeli Court Overturns Jailing of Palestinians Ahead of Jerusalem Day

Police requested to extend the detentions of several Palestinian activists, claiming that they committed crimes during the funeral of journalist Shireen Abu Akleh two weeks ago

Nir Hasson
Nir Hasson
Last year's Flag March at Damascus Gate, with participants holding a banner reading 'Marching to the Temple Mount,' in Jerusalem.
Last year's Flag March at Damascus Gate, with participants holding a banner reading 'Marching to the Temple Mount,' in Jerusalem.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg
Nir Hasson
Nir Hasson

An Israeli court overturned on Friday the detention of seven Palestinian activists who were jailed as a preventative measure ahead of the contentious Jerusalem Day celebrations and Flag March scheduled for Sunday.

Over the past few days, about 100 Palestinian activists from East Jerusalem were summoned for questioning by the police, and some were arrested.

The police asked Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court Judges Zion Saharay and Amir Shaked to extend the detentions of several activists, claiming that they had intelligence and suspected that they had committed crimes during the funeral of journalist Shireen Abu Akleh two weeks ago. The judges accepted the request.

The attorney representing the seven activists, Mohammad Mahmoud, appealed the decision, and Jerusalem District Court Judge Ohad Gordon accepted the appeal and ruled that they be unconditionally released. He said that the detention was "preventative," rather than a response to a criminal offense.

Gordon wrote in his decision that he could not accept the claim that the "detention was requested for investigative purposes." He added, "I do not take lightly the need to prevent riots and violent incidents, or the sensitivity that accompanies the [Flag] March, but attending to this need cannot be done via criminal arrests."

Sunday's Flag March is slated to pass through Damascus Gate and the Muslim Quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem, and there will be restrictions on the Palestinian population there during this time. In past years, participants in the march had chanted racist slogans against Arabs on their way to the Western Wall, the end point of the procession.

In another case, Gordon also overturned a restraining order by the Magistrate’s Court barring Palestinian activist Mohammed Abu Hummus from the Old City on Sunday. Abu Hummus was detained for questioning on Wednesday, after police who were on duty in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Isawiyah saw a Palestinian flag in his car. One of the policemen opened the door and confiscated the flag, and in response Abu Hummus took an Israeli flag that was on the police car.

Last year, Hamas fired a barrage of rockets toward Jerusalem during the Flag March, prompting 11 days of fighting between Israel and Gaza, which coincided with interethnic riots throughout Israel.

The route of last year's march was changed just before the procession began to avoid passing through Damascus Gate and the Muslim Quarter, due to fears of escalating violence. Then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made the decision in accordance with the Shin Bet security service and security officials, despite opposition from the police.

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