Cleared for publication: Two detainees released after 11 days of interrogation
Wednesday, April 15, 2015, 13:15 Cleared for publication: In March 2015 two Jewish men approximately 20 years of age, one a resident of Kiryat Arba and the other of the Shomron region, were detained by the Jewish Department of the GSS on suspicion of setting an Arab house on fire in the Har Hevron region. Immediately upon their detention a complete gag order was placed on the case, forbidding any information, even mention of the detention, to be released. They were held for prolonged interrogations in two GSS facilities for 11 days and released after no evidence implicating them in the arson incident was found. For the first nine days of their remand they were not permitted to meet with Honenu attorneys due to an order issued by the GSS interrogators. The detainees denied all charges and throughout all of the interrogations exercised their right to remain silent. Later, they described severe interrogations during which their interrogators yelled insults at them, threatened them and shouted at them. The interrogations, during which the detainees were shackled to a small chair attached to the floor, lasted many hours, sometimes 16 hours straight. One of the detainees was interrogated on Shabbat. They stated that no evidence linking them to the arson incident was presented to them. After the detainees were released administrative orders were issued to them without a trial. The orders ban both of them from Yehuda and Shomron for a year and ban one of them from Jerusalem for six months. Honenu attorney Yossi Lin represented the two detainees. After the gag order was lifted he stated that, “The method of keeping suspects out of the public eye, preventing them from meeting with an attorney and attempting to break their spirits in order to cause them to confess even when there is no evidence at all, is an unacceptable method which should be stopped immediately. Once again detainees were held in conditions which deprived them of all of their basic rights. When it became clear that it was a false detention the suspects were released, however no-one will compensate them for the damage caused to them.” Honenu reports that issuing sweeping gag orders on the detention of “Price Tag” incident suspects has become a common phenomenon. The orders are designed to prevent the recurring embarrassment of the police and the GSS when “Price Tag” detainees, who were detained with much fanfare, are released after no evidence implicating them was found. Honenu represented detainees in a similar case which has been partially cleared for publication, but not yet reported in the media because the gag order, which was in effect for two months, has not yet been completely lifted. Seven youths were detained on suspicion of involvement with two “Price Tag” incidents in the Arab village of Akrava in the Shomron. Four of the youths were interrogated by the GSS and two of them, minors 16 years of age, were banned from meeting with an attorney. The detainees were dressed in brown uniforms meant for security prisoners (terrorists) and a 14 year old detainee was forced to wear a uniform several sizes too large for him, which shocked Honenu attorney Chai Haber. “The youth was not interrogated nor was he asked even one question about the case. [The interrogators] only shouted insults at him, spoke to each other about him in Arabic, told him that his parents hated him and during one of the interrogations slapped him across the face,” said Haber. “I am sure that in a situation such as this a 14 year old youth would confess to anything and tell any story that the GSS wanted to hear.” The gag order was extended for an additional month after all of the detainees had been released from remand without an indictment and without any evidence against them presented. Despite the fact that there was no indictment, Major-General Nitzan Alon, then commander of the IDF Central Command, also issued administrative orders against the youth banning them from entering various regions. “The police and the GSS have been embarrassed time after time as a result of their carrying out detentions of ‘Price Tag’ incident suspects in a big production when in the end it turns out that there is no evidence implicating them,” says Honenu. Currently Honenu is providing legal assistance in two cases in which several detainees are banned from meeting with an attorney. Honenu adds that, “Issuing a gag order solves the problem of embarrassment. The public isn’t even aware that suspects, some of them minors only 14 years old, are being held by the GSS in remand in harsh conditions, without being permitted to meet with an attorney. And of course when the detainees are released, the public is not aware of the unconditional release of the suspects against whom no evidence was found.” Honenu also severely criticizes the widespread banning of detainees from meeting with an attorney: “In the past it was a step reserved for terrorists classified as ‘ticking time-bombs’, however today it has become the norm, even concerning Jewish minors suspected of relatively minor violations. In our opinion the system has lost its moral compass and is not distinguishing between friend and foe. How is treating a 14 year old Jewish youth as if he is the worst of the terrorists justifiable?