B’Tselem says jailed activist to be released ‘in coming hours’

Police will not challenge court ruling ordering Nasser Nawaj’ah to be discharged after five days

Raoul Wootliff is the Times of Israel's former political correspondent and producer of the Daily Briefing podcast.

Undated photo of Palestinian activist Nasser Nawaj’ah (Leif Magne Helgesen, File)
Undated photo of Palestinian activist Nasser Nawaj’ah (Leif Magne Helgesen, File)

A B’Tselem field worker arrested last week for alleged attempted murder and contact with a foreign agent will be released Monday afternoon, the NGO said.

The Israel Police informed Nasser Nawaj’ah’s lawyer they would not challenge a Sunday court ruling ordering his release and he would be freed “in the coming hours,” according to a B’Tselem statement.

An Israeli military court ruled that the police investigation wasn’t moving forward and it wasn’t clear whether Nawaj’ah had threatened a Palestinian who asked to sell land to settlers. It ordered Nawaj’ah’s restricted release, but delayed it by 24 hours to permit a police appeal.

Nawaj’ah, a senior activist in the human rights group B’Tselem, was arrested last week near the West Bank village of Susya, south of Hebron.

On Thursday, the Jerusalem District Court granted an unconditional release to Nawaj’ah, but the police asked to delay setting the field worker free in order to appeal the decision.

The tribunal had ruled that Israel does not have authority to handle Nawaj’ah’s case because he is a Palestinian, and police were given until 10:00 a.m. Friday morning to file the appeal, the Walla news site reported.

“The court accepted our position that my client’s arrest was a false arrest, since Israeli courts have no jurisdiction in the matter,” attorney Gaby Lasky said in a statement posted to the B’Tselem website. “This is the second instance that has ordered his unconditional release. The police are intent on continuing the pressure on human rights activists under arrest.”

On Thursday, police named Ezra Nawi as a hitherto-unnamed, high-profile, far-left activist arrested last week at Ben-Gurion Airport as he tried to leave the country, following an investigative report in which he was recorded saying he helps Palestinian authorities track down Arabs who attempted to sell land to Jews.

The identities of Nawaj’ah and another arrested activist, Israeli national Guy Butavia, were also released for publication Thursday.

A prominent campaigner for Palestinian rights, Nawi featured in a television investigation earlier this month in which he was recorded saying that he helps Palestinian authorities find Palestinians who sell land to Jews and are then killed for the crime.

Nawi’s name, along with other details of the investigation, had been under gag order since the arrest.

Left-wing Israeli activist Ezra Nawi, seen at the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court on January 20, 2016. (Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Left-wing Israeli activist Ezra Nawi, seen at the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court on January 20, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)


In the investigative report, aired by Channel 2’s Uvda program, Nawi can be heard speaking about four Palestinian real estate sellers, who, Nawi said, mistook him for a Jew interested in buying their property.

“Straight away, I give their photos and phone numbers to the Preventive Security Services,” Nawi is heard saying in reference to the Palestinian Authority’s counterintelligence arm. “The Palestinian Authority catches them and kills them. But before it kills them, they get beat up a lot.”

The broadcast sparked a political storm, with right-wing politicians and activists pointing to it as proof that left-wing groups are not necessarily interested in human rights.

In the Palestinian Authority, the penal code calls for capital punishment for anyone convicted of selling land to Jews. This law, which Palestinian officials defended as designed to prevent takeovers by settlers, has not been implemented in Palestinian courts, where sellers of land to Jews are usually sentenced to several years in prison.

A number of murders in recent years have been rumored to be related to the sale of land to Israelis, though the cases have remained unsolved.

The recordings and footage were collected by right-wing activists, who secretly recorded Nawi.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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