Israeli Judge Refuses to Convict Bedouin Student Held in Solitary for ‘Helping Hamas’

Prosecutors indicted Ta'ir Judeh for distributing study notes on behalf of a student group affiliated with Hamas ■ Court finds no harm caused by his actions

Ta’ir Judeh.
Eliyahu Hershkovitz

A district court judge refused on Thursday to formally convict a Bedouin from the Negev who is studying medicine in Jordan on serious security-related charges filed against him two years ago. Instead the judge, Daniel Ben Tolila, required that he serve 120 hours of community service.

The Be’er Sheva judge criticized the prosecution over the indictment against the student, Ta’ir Judeh, for distributing class study notes on behalf of a student organization identified with Hamas, but the prosecutor’s office was insistent on pursuing the case to deter other students studying abroad.

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Judeh admitted to distributing the class notes, but the judge ruled that his actions had not caused actual harm and declined to convict him.

Shin Bet security service agents arrested Judeh at his home in the Negev in 2017 in the case and brought him in for interrogation. He was held in isolation for about a month and was denied access to a lawyer for most of that time.

Judeh alleged that he was subjected to violence and that he was physically restrained for more than 10 hours, adding that he had been previously approached by the Shin Bet to act as an informant to provide information about what was happening at his school, Irbid National University, but had refused. Since his detention, he has suffered from chronic pain and sleep problems, he said.

The initial charges against him included contact with a foreign agent, providing information to the enemy and serving an illegal organization. The prosecution had earlier dropped the allegation regarding contact with a foreign agent following criticism from the judge and in the end, the two sides agreed to leave it to the judge to decide whether to find Judeh guilty and what his punishment should be.

In the revised charge sheet, Judeh was accused of having acceded to a request to distribute a summary of class lessons on behalf of the Hamas-affiliated student organization.

He was allegedly requested to do this by a member of Hamas, but in a conversation with Haaretz, prosecutors admitted that they had not verified that the individuals with whom Judeh had contact were in fact members of the Hamas Islamist movement. However, they said it was sufficient that Judeh believed that they were from Hamas to convict him.

In ruling on the case, the judge said: “This does not involve someone who provided direct assistance to someone from Hamas or a military group affiliated with Hamas, but rather he provided a service to an entity that is civilian in nature, Hamas’ student association.”

Judeh expressed regret over what transpired. “I made contact with people whom I don’t know ...I only wanted to help people with the [class] summaries.”