Uri Yaakovi Released From IDF After Serving 200 Days for Refusal

The Israel Defense Forces released Uri Yaakovi, one of the signatories to a letter from 12th graders that called for refusal to serve in the army, from a military prison on Tuesday after he had served a 200-day sentence.

The decision by the committee that releases soldiers from military service based on physical, psychological, economic and other criteria did not provide an explanation for Yaakovi's release.

High school student Noa Levy, one of the major activists in the organization of people who support the refuseniks' letter, said that releasing Yaakovi because he is unsuited for military service, without giving a particular reason, is the best type of release from service. "I hope others get a similar release," Levy said.

Hagai Matar, one of the letter's signatories, will be brought Wednesday to have his remand extended at the Jaffa military court after serving some 160 days in prison for refusing to serve in the IDF. Matar is represented by attorney Dov Chenin, who was a Knesset candidate on the Hadash party list.

Dror Boymel, a signatory who is represented by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, is waiting for a hearing by the "committee advising the defense minister on exemptions from defense service," known as the "conscience committee."

The conscience committee "is familiar with pacifism like pig farmers are familiar with kashrut laws," attorney Michael Sfarad, who signed an officers' letter of refusal and represents one of the refuseniks, told Haaretz Wednesday.

According to Sfarad, the army is focusing all efforts on pacifist Yonatan Ben-Artzi, probably because of all the media attention his story received. Ben-Artzi, the nephew of Foreign Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has been in military prison for 200 days for refusing to serve in the army. Sfarad says that IDF authorities constantly hint to him that he should see a mental health officer or get released for being unsuited for military service, which Ben-Arzi refuses to do.

Nine other signatories to the letter are currently serving prison terms for refusal to serve in the military.