Court releases activist held over reporting Palestinian land-sellers

Court releases activist held over reporting Palestinian land-sellers

Judge gives police hours to appeal for extending custody of Ezra Nawi; Palestinian held in case remains in jail

Ezra Nawi (center) seen at the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court, January 24, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Ezra Nawi (center) seen at the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court, January 24, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court ordered the release of left-wing activist Ezra Nawi Sunday, over a week after he was arrested on suspicion he helped Palestinian officials execute Arabs for trying to sell land to Jews.

Nawi’s exit from jail, along with another arrested activist Guy Butavia, was put on hold for several hours to give police a chance to appeal against the decision, but he was later freed.

Nawi was put under house Arrest, according to Israel Radio, and Butavia was transferred to a military court.

Nawi is suspected by police of a litany of charges, including helping a person who did not have a permit in Israel, being in possession of a drug for personal use, contact with a foreign agent, attempt to cause the death of a person, fraud, conspiracy and theft and possession of a knife.

His arrest came days after an investigative TV program recorded him saying he helped track down Palestinians who sell land to Jews for punishment, including execution.

Police had initially asked for Nawi’s arrest to be extended for another six days, citing “non-cooperation” and that “the suspect in his investigation was silent and didn’t cooperate.”

However, Judge David Shaul Gabai Richter said that, having gone over the case material, he didn’t find “reinforcement to the suspicions against the defendant.”

Richter also noted that there was no new information provided about the Palestinian man that Nawi was supposed to have helped kill, evidence that he said was “significant and fundamental, without which it is not possible to conduct the investigation properly and certainly an arrest with respect to such a detention must not be extended.”

The state on Sunday also told the Supreme Court it should not meddle in the case of B’Tselem field worker Nasser Nawaj’ah, a Palestinian, who was also arrested in connection with the investigation.

Last week, the Jerusalem District Court granted an unconditional release to Nawaj’ah, saying it had no jurisdiction over the matter. However, police then brought him before a military court at Ofer military prison in the West Bank, which agreed to extend his remand.

His attorney, Gaby Lasky, appealed to the Supreme Court for his release. In response, the state claimed there was no need for the Supreme Court to be involved, as Nawaj’ah’s case was being handled by the IDF military court, Haaretz reported.

Nawi was arrested earlier this month, shortly after a TV exposé on Channel 2 showed him boasting that he helps the Palestinian Authority capture Palestinians trying to sell their land to Jews — an offense that is punishable by death in the PA.

In the investigative report, aired by Channel 2’s “Uvda” program, Nawi could be heard speaking about four Palestinian real estate sellers, who, according to Nawi, 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.”

One of the men in whose death Nawi claims (in the video) to have been involved with is Abu Halil, who — according to official records — died of a stroke in 2014.

Police believe Abu Halil was attempting to set up a land deal with Jewish buyers. Nawi, who learned of the plan, notified the plot owner, a relative of Abu Halil. The latter died, allegedly of a stroke, shortly thereafter. Police raised the possibility that by conveying the information about Abu Halil, Nawi was indirectly complicit in his death.

The Palestinian Authority 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.

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