Two detainees in church arson case released

Monday, July 27, 2015, 12:42 On Sunday, July 26 the Natzrat Magistrate Court released two youths who were detained on suspicion of involvement with the June 18 arson incident at a church near Tevaria. The youths, who deny all connection to the incident, were held under harsh conditions in a GSS facility for approximately 10 days. The police requested that the youths be conditionally released. The court ordered them released to two weeks of house arrest and prohibited them from contacting other suspects in the case. The GSS interrogated – also humiliated and threatened – the youths for many hours a day, every day, as each of them was shackled to a chair. They were kept in a small cell lacking minimal conditions, with a light constantly on. (See here for more accounts of harsh GSS interrogations.) The remand of three other suspects in the case has been extended and the Attorney General’s office announced that it would file an indictment against two of them. One of them is suspected of damaging the church and the other is suspected of assisting in carrying out the act. Honenu attorney Aharon Roza, who is representing one of the released detainees, stated in response, “I am pleased with the release of the detainee who was held, through no fault of his own, in remand under inhumane and humiliating remand conditions. I demand that it be clear that his release indicates that he does not have any connection to carrying out the act attributed to him.” Honenu attorney Yuval Zemer, who is representing the other released detainee, said that, “From the outset we pleaded that the detainees do not and did not have any connection to the serious crimes attributed to them. We, of course, are pleased with the release, but are saddened by the fact that the detainees were forced to suffer, for approximately 10 days, under harsh remand conditions, brutal interrogations, and severe violations of their basic rights when today there is no doubt that there was no justification for the remand.” The July 26 release of the two detainees was preceded by the detention and release of 18 hikers, 16 youths, their guide and his young son, in the north of Israel several hours after the arson incident. As the group was saying morning prayers at the tomb of the Prophet Habbakuk, several police cars arrived at the scene, and the policemen informed the group of hikers that they were being detained. Then a large number of forces from the Central Unit of Yehuda and Shomron Police, Yassam (Special Forces) police, and GSS personnel arrived and detained the group. The hikers were held at the scene for over six hours and then unconditionally released.

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