Israel releases senior PFLP member Khalida Jarrar after 2 years in prison

Jarrar, a top legislator, was convicted of membership in a terror group in March; has been in and out of Israeli jails for years

Palestinian lawmaker Khalida Jarrar is greeted by supporters near the West Bank town of Tulkarem, on June 3, 2016. (Majdi Mohammed/AP)
Palestinian lawmaker Khalida Jarrar is greeted by supporters near the West Bank town of Tulkarem, on June 3, 2016. (Majdi Mohammed/AP)

Israel has released Palestinian legislator Khalida Jarrar, a senior member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), after two years in Israeli prison.

Israel, the United States, and the European Union consider the PFLP, one of several member parties of the Palestine Liberation Organization, to be a terrorist organization.

Jarrar was elected in 2006 to the Palestinian legislature as a PFLP representative. She has long been a well-known PFLP politician, focusing on women’s rights and the affairs of security prisoners in Israeli jails.

After an October 2019 terror attack by the PFLP took the life of Rina Shnerb, a 17-year-old Israeli girl, Israel arrested dozens of the organization’s members.

Jarrar was held for over a year without trial in prison under administrative detention. The procedure, which is primarily used with Palestinians, enables Israeli security forces to detain suspects for months at a time without charges.

Israeli security officials defend the measure, arguing that in some cases, issuing an indictment could force them to reveal sensitive security information. Palestinians and international rights groups, however, have criticized it, contending that Israel abuses it.

Rina Shnerb, 17, who was killed in a terror attack in the West Bank, on August 23, 2019. (Courtesy)

Jarrar was ultimately convicted in March of belonging to the PFLP, which is an illegal organization under Israeli law. She received two years in jail and a fine as part of a plea bargain, with most of her sentence already having been served as administrative detention an in the run-up to her trial.

Military prosecutors said that not enough evidence had been found to convict Jarrar of her involvement in the PFLP’s armed activities, including the terror attack that killed Shnerb.

Jarrar’s daughter Suha died in July while her mother was in prison, leading some Palestinians to call for a furlough in order for her to attend her daughter’s funeral.

Israeli authorities did not approve her request, and Jarrar watched her daughter’s funeral on television.

“It was a hard moment. But I felt her spirit was accompanying me,” Jarrar told reporters on Sunday.

Public Security Minister Omer Barlev later wrote in Haaretz that it was not legally feasible to grant furloughs to a security prisoner of Jarrar’s caliber.

“In light of the offenses for which the security prisoner is serving her sentence, her request does not meet the minimum requirements for its consideration, in accordance with Israel Prison Service regulations,” Barlev said in a column.

Suha Jarrar (left) greets her mother, Khalida Jarrar of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, after she was released from 20 months of detention, in the West Bank city of Ramallah, on February 28, 2019. (STR/Flash90)

Jarrar is a well-known campaigner on behalf of Palestinian prisoners. She directed the prisoners’ legal assistance nonprofit Al-Dameer from 1994 to 2006, when she was elected to the Palestinian legislature.

She has spent several periods in Israeli jail, some of it in administrative detention. Jarrar did a stint in prison in 2015 and 2016, after an Israeli military court convicted her of incitement to violence and “promoting terror activities.” She has disputed those charges.

The parliamentarian also spent 19 months in Israeli prison between 2017 and 2019, when she was accused of “involvement with terrorist activities and violent public disturbances,” but was never formally charged.

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