Court Denies Police Appeal to Keep Two Leftist Activists in Custody

No new evidence to warrant keeping Ezra NawiandGuy Butavia in jail, judge says.

Ezra Nawi in court, Jerusalem, January 25, 2016.
Olivier Fitoussi

The Jerusalem District Court on Monday upheld a lower court's decision to release leftist activists Ezra Nawi and Guy Butavia to house arrest, denying a police appeal. 

The two were released from police custody on Sunday, after the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court had ordered the police to place them on house arrest. The court criticized the police for not clarifying the circumstances surrounding the death of a Palestinian land dealer in which the two were allegedly involved, even though over two weeks have passed since the initial arrest. It nevertheless allowed the police to appeal the decision.

Upon denying the appeal on Monday, Judge Moshe Baram said that in the absence of new evidence, he saw no reason to intervene in the Magistrate Court's decision. 

The police investigation against Nawi and Butavia, which was sparked by a report on the investigative television program “Uvda,” found that about 18 months ago, Nawi disclosed information about a land swap between a Palestinian resident of the South Hebron Hills, referred to in court documents as Abu Khalil, and a settler referred to as Yonatan. The information was given to a relative of Abu Khalil’s who was liable to be harmed by the deal, but as far as is known, it was never given to the Palestinian Authority. Shortly thereafter, Abu Khalil died. 

Nawi was arrested over two weeks ago and Butavia was arrested last week. The charges the police have presented in court against Nawi include a number of offenses, including accessory to manslaughter, conspiracy in attempted murder in the deaths of Palestinians who sold land to Jews, contact with and passing information to a foreign agent, transporting an individual in Israel without a permit, conspiracy to commit a crime, possession of a knife or brass knuckles, and drug possession for personal use. The fraud charge was added to the list last week.

Over two weeks after the beginning of the investigation and Nawi's arrest, the police still haven't managed to discover the cause of death.