A Palestinian terror suspect who was hospitalized following interrogation by the Shin Bet security service showed signs of improvement on Wednesday, but remained in critical condition, according to his lawyer.
Mahmoud Hassan told the Ofer Military court that his client, Samer Arbid, the alleged head of a terror cell that carried out a bombing in August in which an Israeli teenager was killed, was still attached to a ventilator at Jerusalem’s Hadassah Hospital Mount Scopus with severe internal injures, including broken ribs and kidney failure.
Hassan petitioned the court for Arbid’s release due to his injuries, arguing that his client had “undergone severe torture” while in Israeli custody, according to Hebrew media reports.
However, the court denied the request, and ruled that due to the improvement in Arbid’s condition, the Shin Bet would likely be able to resume interrogating him “in the coming days.”
Though the judge rejected the request, she ordered Arbid’s medical records be turned over to the defense, and allowed greater visitation rights by his family members while he recovers.
The court will convene again on Thursday for a hearing, where prosecutors are expected to ask the court to remand Arbid in custody until the end of his legal proceedings.
Israeli security forces initially arrested Arbid, a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine terror group, near Ramallah earlier in September for planning the West Bank bombing attack in August that killed Israeli teenager Rina Shnerb, but released him shortly after due to lack of evidence.
The 44-year-old was picked up again last Wednesday, and according to security sources, the Shin Bet was given permission to employ “extraordinary measures” during his interrogation. Such measures can include beatings, forcing prisoners into uncomfortable positions, sleep deprivation, shackling and subjecting prisoners to extreme temperatures.
This is typically allowed in “ticking time bomb” cases where there is concern the suspect could provide security forces with information that could prevent an imminent attack.
Arbid was admitted to Hadassah on Saturday in critical condition. His attorneys said he had been healthy when he was arrested last Wednesday.
The Shin Bet security service later confirmed Arbid was taken to a hospital, saying only that he “did not feel well” during interrogation. Unconfirmed reports in Hebrew-language media said that Arbid, who did not deny the allegations against him, suffered a heart-related problem during the interrogation.
But on Wednesday, Channel 13 reported that Israeli officials suspect that Arbid was not injured during interrogation but in the course of his arrest last week in the Ramallah suburb of Al Bireh, which was “very violent.” The TV news report also said that Shin Bet officials were “relieved” that Arbid was showing signs of improvement.
On Sunday, Palestinian prisoner advocacy group Addameer said that Arbid was “harshly beaten” by the Israeli security forces who arrested him and that Shin Bet investigators “continued using torture and ill-treatment” afterwards.
The Palestinian Authority appealed for help internationally, claiming that Arbid was “severely tortured” by Israel in violation of the Geneva Conventions.
The Justice Ministry has launched an investigation into Arbid’s injuries, specifically probing the degree of force along with the tactics used by the Shin Bet interrogators.
On August 23, an IED that had been planted next to the Bubin natural spring in the central West Bank was triggered by terrorists as the Shnerb family from the central Israeli town of Lod visited the site. Rina Shnerb was declared dead at the scene and her father Eitan and brother Dvir, 19, were taken to a hospital in Jerusalem after being wounded by the blast.
Other suspects arrested in the wake of the deadly attack, Qassem a-Karim Rajah Shibli and Yasan Hasin Hasni Majamas, have served time in Israeli prisons for their involvement in terrorist activities, according to the Shin Bet.
The Shin Bet said it also arrested Nizam Sami Yousef Ulad Mahmoud, 21, who is suspected of being a member of Arbid’s cell. He is a member of the PFLP’s student group at Bir Zeit University in the West Bank.
The Shin Bet said it was still looking for additional members of the terror cell.
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