The far-left activist suspected of helping Palestinian authorities carry out death sentences against Arabs who attempted to sell land to Jews was not trying to escape the country when he was arrested at Ben Gurion Airport on Monday, his lawyer said.
Attorney Leah Tsemel told Channel 2 Tuesday that Ezra Nawi had received death threats following a Channel 2 investigative report that showed Nawi boasting on candid video that he informed on Palestinians who were willing to sell West Bank land to Jews.
He was slated to appear before the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday for a hearing on extending his remand.
Police are holding Nawi on suspicion of contacting an enemy agent and conspiracy to commit a crime.
“People published his address on all kinds of right-wing sites and just then his friends abroad told him to come to them,” Tsemel said. “He clarified that there was no arrest order out on him or against him leaving the country and that he was not summoned for an investigation — so he thought is would be a good opportunity to leave for that vacation.”
“The whole story hurt him very much, so he decided to travel,” Tsemel continued. “It was not an escape. He took into account that this might happen, but he has every right to that.”
On Monday police arrested Nawi, a Jewish far-left activist from the Ta’ayush advocacy group, as he stood in the check-in line at Ben Gurion Airport.
Nawi, a prominent campaigner against Israel’s policies in the West Bank, featured in a television investigation last week on the Uvda program in which he was recorded saying that he helps Palestinian authorities find and kill Palestinians who sell land to Jews.
In the recording, Nawi is heard speaking about four Palestinian real estate sellers, whom Nawi said mistook him for a Jew interested in buying their property.
“Straight away I give their pictures and phone numbers to the Preventive Security Force,” 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.”
The broadcast sparked a political storm, with right-wing politicians and activists pointing to it as proof that left-wing groups are not necessarily interested in human rights.
In the Palestinian Authority, the penal code calls for capital punishment for anyone convicted of selling land to Jews. This law, which Palestinian officials defended as designed to prevent the expansion of Israeli settlements, has not been implemented in Palestinian courts, where sellers of land to Jews are usually sentenced to several years in prison.
A number of murders in recent years have been rumored to be related to the sale of land to Israelis, though the murders have remained unsolved.