Court orders minors held in Jewish terror probe be allowed to meet with lawyers
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Court orders minors held in Jewish terror probe be allowed to meet with lawyers

Judges says police ban on legal counsel must end after week of detention, though they find police suspicions of terror plot are reasonable

Jacob Magid is the settlements correspondent for The Times of Israel.

Right wing activists clash with police outside a court hearing in Rishon Lezion, on the matter of the Jewish youth suspects in a major security probe whose details are under gag order on December 31, 2018. (Flash90)
Right wing activists clash with police outside a court hearing in Rishon Lezion, on the matter of the Jewish youth suspects in a major security probe whose details are under gag order on December 31, 2018. (Flash90)

The Lod District Court on Thursday ordered an end to a police order preventing three minors suspected in a major terrorism plot from meeting with their attorneys.

Details of the investigation are under a court-imposed gag order.

The court ruled the suspects, who are part of a suspected Jewish terror probe, must be permitted to meet with defense lawyers once the existing police order expires on Saturday night.

The original order was set to expire by Friday, but security officials were permitted to extend it an additional two days. The order has been in effect since the three minors were arrested Sunday morning in the probe.

The district court rejected the suspects’ attorneys’ appeal to release the teens from detention before their remand expires on Sunday.

Israeli law allows authorities to delay an attorney visit for a terrorism suspect by up to 21 days — subject to court appeal.

While the court allowed the police a week’s questioning without attorneys, ruling they had sufficient grounds to suspect an active terror plot, it agreed to allow a probation officer to check in on the suspects in order to ensure they were not being mistreated.

The investigation, whose details are under gag order, is being conducted jointly by the Shin Bet security service and police’s nationalistic crime unit.

Several dozen far-right activists protested in support of the arrested minors on Monday outside the Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court, a lower court that permitted the suspects’ original detention, clashing with police who tried to stop them from blocking the road.

A police spokesman said one 19-year-old was arrested and one officer was lightly injured.

On Sunday morning, a squad of Shin Bet agents and officers in the elite police unit Yasam raided a yeshiva, or Jewish religious seminary, in the northern West Bank and arrested one student, said a spokesman for the Honenu right-wing legal aid group that is representing the detained teen.

Shortly thereafter, a second student was arrested on his way to the religious institution, said his attorney, right-wing activist Itamar Ben Gvir.

Hours later, Honenu reported that a third teen was arrested in the central city of Modiin, adding that it would be representing him as well.

Ben Gvir slammed the conduct of Israeli authorities and claimed Shin Bet agents were likely torturing his client in detention in order to extract a false confession.

Itamar Ben Gvir seen outside a court hearing in Rishon Lezion, on the matter of the Jewish youth suspects in a major security probe whose details are under gag order on December 31, 2018. (Flash90)

The attorney cited a report last week on the “Uvda” TV program that documented the security service’s alleged brutal tactics in its efforts to obtain admissions of guilt from Israeli suspects in a deadly July 2014 terror attack in the central West Bank Palestinian village of Duma, in which three members of the Dawabshe family were burned to death.

And on Tuesday the Central District Court threw out confessions given under duress by a far-right activist, accused of a series of crimes including membership in a terror organization and vandalism of a Jerusalem church.

“The order prohibiting my client from a meeting with an attorney was intended precisely for the same purpose of increasing pressure and abuse,” Ben Gvir said in a statement.

The Shin Bet has defended its tactics in the Duma case, saying extreme measures were required — and green-lighted by law enforcement and judicial officials — due to the fear that additional attacks were in the pipeline.

State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan stood by authorities’ handling of this week’s case, saying law enforcement was bound to treat Jewish terrorism just like it treats Palestinian terrorism.

“There is only one posture toward terrorism: It must be fought by all legal means,” Nitzan said at an economic conference on Monday. “Terrorism on both sides endangers national security.”

He added: “We are taking the necessary steps to ensure that only legitimate and reasonable measures are used in the struggle against terrorism. We scrutinize the actions of the security forces and examine every complaint filed against them. That’s what we’ve done in the past and that is what we will do in the future.”

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