Court denies al-Qaeda suspect’s request to go free
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Court denies al-Qaeda suspect’s request to go free

Judges say Samer Al-Barq a danger to Israel and the region, move to extend his administrative detention

Lazar Berman is a former breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Samar Halmi Abdel Latif Al-Barq, a Kuwaiti citizen of Palestinian descent and an alleged al-Qaeda operative, has been held in administrative detention in Israel since 2010. (photo credit: Screenshot Channel 2)
Samar Halmi Abdel Latif Al-Barq, a Kuwaiti citizen of Palestinian descent and an alleged al-Qaeda operative, has been held in administrative detention in Israel since 2010. (photo credit: Screenshot Channel 2)

Israel’s Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected the petition of a Kuwaiti of Palestinian extraction suspected of affiliation with al-Qaeda and held secretly by Israel since 2010, and extended his administrative detention by an additional six months.

Samar Halmi Abdel Latif Al-Barq was arrested in July 2010 as he crossed the Allenby Bridge from Jordan into Israel.

Tuesday’s decision, handed down unanimously by a panel of three justices, acknowledged that holding a prisoner in administrative detention for three years “is not something that should be taken lightly” and that “this measure must be employed with great restraint while maintaining the fundamental rights of detainees, and striving to minimize the harm to them.”

Despite those considerations, the court decided to extend Barq’s detention in light of “the grave risk presented by the petitioner, someone with knowledge and experience with nonconventional weapons, which would be priceless to terror groups, along with connections to senior al-Qaeda members.” 

Barq traveled to Pakistan in 1997 to learn microbiology. According to court documents, he underwent military training in 1998; in 2001, he was recruited by al-Qaeda’s Ayman al-Zawahiri, who now heads the global terror organization.

“The knowledge, experience, and connections of the petitioner — who is affiliated with a very extreme Islamist ideology — alongside his unflagging attempts to recruit new adherents to his path, are at the core of the need to keep him in custody,” the judges said in their decision. “We are convinced that there is no less-harmful option that would negate the aforementioned danger. The material before us, especially the updated material, does not give us basis to believe the petitioner intends to abandon either the path of religious extremism or that of terrorism.”

“At this time,” the justices concluded, “his release would present a significant risk to regional security and to that of the public. As such, there is no room for intervention on our part.”

Administrative detention — incarceration without trial — is legal if used as a preventative arrest, in advance of a crime. According to Article 78 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, an occupying power may, “for imperative reasons of security,” subject people to internment. But human rights groups routinely decry Israel’s use of the procedure, which has risen 50 percent since last year.

On Monday, the Israeli military prosecutor requested that the court extend Barq’s detention. Monday’s hearing was the first official confirmation that Israel was holding him. Word of his arrest was first released to the press on Sunday, in advance of the court session.

Barq was allegedly involved in planning attacks on Jews and Israelis in Jordan and also planned to teach Palestinian terrorists how to manufacture poisons.

He was arrested by US authorities in Pakistan in 2003 for terrorist activities and questioned for three months before being released to Jordan, where he was promptly imprisoned for five years. Following his release, he spent another two years in Jordan before trying to make his way to Israel.

Saleh Mahamid, Barq’s attorney, told the court during Monday’s hearing that his client could not be dangerous, since he had been released from arrest by the Americans after just three months.

Barq said that he was handed over to the Israeli authorities by Jordanian intelligence in 2010 and questioned by the Shin Bet security service before his arrest.

Stuart Winer and Elhanan Miller contributed to this report.

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