Judge Orders Release of Rightists Arrested in Sderot

Police detained 7 rightists attempting to march from Sderot to the former Gush Katif in southern Gaza.

A Kiryat Gat magistrates court ordered the immediate release of right-wing protestors arrested in Sderot on Sunday.

Judge Nehama Netzer ordered the immediate release of seven protestors who were arrested during the rightist rally in the western Negev town.

"It is indeed regrettable if have arrived at a time in which individuals dread legally expressing their opinions, in way of demonstration or participating in a sanctioned rally," the judge told law enforcement officials.

Netzer continued by saying that "abusing the power of sovereignty and the authority to arrest in order to hinder this right of expression, besides acting as a muzzle, indicates a dark time in the history of the State of Israel."

"There is no disagreement as to the fact that the defendants were not involved in illegal activities prior to their arrest, and it is equally undisputable to state that it is not prevented by law for them to be in Sderot, even more so because of the fact that the city of Sderot had not been declared a sealed military area, and that there was no possible way to prevent civilian movement," the judge added.

The police on Sunday detained dozens of right-wing activists who tried to march from Sderot to the area where once stood the Israeli settlements of Gush Katif in the southern Gaza Strip.

Some 600 protesters tried to cross Highway 34 leading out of Sderot, but the police cordoned off some of the access roads into and out of the city for fear that the marchers would try to hold a procession in the direction of Gush Katif.

From the early morning hours, police forces were deployed in anticipation of the protest. Some 200 officers were assigned the task of keeping order after they had received information that protesters were planning a demonstration to mark the removal of Israeli settlements from Gaza.

Hundreds of right-wing activists on Sunday began marching through Sderot in an attempt to reach the former Gaza settlement of Gush Katif, despite clear warnings from both police and municipal leaders.

The Sderot municipality voiced its opposition to the protest immediately after it was announced and local police detained 10 former Gush Katif residents ahead of the march.

"None of the demonstrators asked for a permit and the [protest] was not organized with any of the proper authorities," said Lachish District Police Chief David Bitan. "Neither the march nor the demonstration are legal. It could harm the public peace and we will not let it happen."

Three of the demonstration organizers were among the detainees, according to Bitan. He said police would ask the court to extend their remand.

Police stationed some 300 officers across the city and were on special alert to prevent the unlawful assembly.

"Sderot residents are enjoying the tranquility of the holiday," said Sderot Mayor David Buskilla. "Whoever plans to demonstrate must have the proper permits."

Sderot is less than 5 kilometers from the Gaza border and has been subject to a constant onslaught of Qassam rockets from the coastal territory.