Court reduces detention without charges for 2 held over assault on Huwara

Time behind bars for suspects, an adult and a minor, cut to 3 months and under 2 months, respectively

Settlers pray as cars and homes burn in the West Bank town of Huwara on February 26, 2023. (Screenshot/Twitter; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
Settlers pray as cars and homes burn in the West Bank town of Huwara on February 26, 2023. (Screenshot/Twitter; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

The Central District Court has reduced the administrative detention for two individuals held on suspicion of involvement in a destructive settler rampage through a West Bank town a week ago.

The detention of a 17-year-old was shortened Monday from four months to less than two, according to the Honenu organization, a right-wing legal aid group.

It came a day after the same court shortened the detention order of the second suspect, 29-year-old David Chai Chasdai, from four months to three.

The two suspects are accused of being among the settler extremists who rioted in Huwara on February 26 in retribution for a terror attack that killed two Israelis earlier that day in the same town. Extremists burned homes, cars, and storefronts, and assaulted Palestinians, leading to scores of injuries and the death of a Palestinian man in unclear circumstances. Palestinians say he was shot.

According to Honenu, it was precedent-setting for the court to significantly shorten an administrative detention order. The Defense Ministry could still in theory extend the pair’s detention once the reduced periods are up.

Honenu attorney Adi Keidar, representing the suspects, said the group will consider appealing the decision at the Supreme Court to secure freedom for the two.

He said the detentions are being used as a form of punishment “and therefore are not legal and not justifiable.”

Daniel Shimshilashvili, another Honenu attorney representing the minor, said there is “not a single piece of evidence for the absurd claims” made against the suspect to justify issuing the detention order.

Both the suspects being held are Israeli settlers living in the northern West Bank.

Last Thursday, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant signed off on orders keeping the two suspected Jewish extremists behind bars after a court ordered authorities to release the pair along with five others following the violent settler rampage through Huwara.

The controversial practice of administrative detention allows individuals to be held without charge practically indefinitely, and the evidence against them to be withheld. Israel currently holds 967 Palestinians in administrative detention. Israeli detainees are in the single digits.

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, center, speaks to National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir after a Knesset vote in Jerusalem, February 15, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

On Friday, National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir called Gallant to ask why the two suspects were still being held but the defense minister declined the call, forcing Ben Gvir to turn to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Kan news said.

Ben Gvir, an ultranationalist politician with ideological ties to some of the West Bank’s most radical settlers, is also an attorney and before entering politics defended extremist settlers in court.

According to Honenu, the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court ordered police to free all seven suspects who were being held following their arrest last Wednesday, due to a lack of evidence of their involvement in the rioting.

Gallant’s decision to put the two suspects in administrative detention followed recommendations by the Shin Bet security agency.

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