Thirty-one Palestinian prisoners who were freed in the 2011 deal that returned captured soldier Gilad Shalit, and who were re-arrested by Israel in 2014, petitioned the High Court of Justice on Sunday demanding to be released.
Attorney Avigdor Feldman, who submitted the petition, argued that Israel incarcerated the petitioners for political reasons even though they hadn’t committed any security offense, and posed no threat to state security.
Sources in the Palestinian Prisoners Club told Haaretz that the petition could lead to the release of the prisoners for legal and not diplomatic reasons, thus allowing for negotiations on the Israeli MIAs and prisoners held in the Gaza Strip. Hamas has made any such negotiations conditional on the release of Shalit-deal prisoners who were re-arrested.
The petition cites a Facebook post last month by Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked that said the arrests were meant “to hurt the terrorists and to pressure their families.” According to Shaked, during the search for the three kidnapped teenagers in 2014, the leader of her party, Naftali Bennett, demanded the arrest of prisoners released in the Shalit deal. “Bennett insisted and insisted – until it happened. Within days, the IDF and the Shin Bet arrested around 60 (!) terrorists from the Shalit prisoner exchange. To this day most of them are rotting in prison and that is the most painful thing for Hamas. This is the first time in the State of Israel’s history that released terrorists ‘were returned to prison.’ That’s how you effect change,” Shaked wrote.
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According to Feldman, there was no justification for arresting the petitioners, who were all arrested on June 18, 2014 at practically the same hour, for ostensibly violating the conditions in the letter of release issued by the Central Command commander, in which they were warned not to resume terrorist activity. “This was a momentary political decision motivated by feelings of revenge by Jewish politicians who decided in this fashion to retaliate against Hamas for the kidnapping and killing of the three teenagers.”
Feldman argued that most of those released from the Shalit deal are older adults and are not planning to return to terrorism. “Indeed, the years passed and the released prisoners remained free and even came to periodic meetings with Shin Bet representatives; none of them imagined that he was acting against state security or violating the letter of release,” he wrote. “Thus the freed prisoners lived in peace and tranquility until the day the state decided to arrest all of them suddenly and all at once, and suddenly accused them of breaching the provisions of the letter of release, provisions that they had upheld from the date of their release to the satisfaction of Shin Bet representatives.”
The petition says the prisoners were re-arrested because they received money that was meant to help rehabilitate them, but they got it from nonprofits that were banned by Israel. Feldman said security officials in Israel knew about the funds transfer, but “they never warned the petitioners that this was a violation of the letter of release.”