Israel sentences senior PFLP member to two years in prison

Palestinian lawmaker Khalida Jarrar pleads guilty to membership in terror group, in deal that will see her serve another eight months after being held in detention for over a year

Prominent Palestinian lawmaker Khalida Jarrar greets speaks to reporters in her hometown, the West Bank city of Ramallah, following her release from an Israeli jail on June 3, 2016. (Abbas Momani/AFP/File)
Prominent Palestinian lawmaker Khalida Jarrar greets speaks to reporters in her hometown, the West Bank city of Ramallah, following her release from an Israeli jail on June 3, 2016. (Abbas Momani/AFP/File)

Khalida Jarrar, a senior member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), was sentenced on Monday to two years in prison after being held in an Israeli jail for more than a year without charges, the Israeli military said on Sunday.

“The Judea Military Court convicted Khalida Jarrar, by her own confession, of the offense of holding office in the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine from 2016 until her arrest in 2019,” the army said in a statement.

Jarrar had been arrested along with dozens of other PFLP members in October 2019 after a terror attack by the organization took the life of Rina Shnerb, a 17-year-old Israeli girl, close to the West Bank settlement of Dolev.

The attack had allegedly been planned and carried out by several members of the PFLP, who were later arrested by Israeli forces. In a wave of mass arrests following the murder, Israel detained dozens of PFLP activists, including Jarrar.

Jarrar received two years in jail as part of a plea bargain. As she was first detained over a year ago, however, she will only serve about eight months of her sentence. She will also have to pay a NIS 4,000 ($1,210) fine.

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.

The PFLP’s armed wing, the Abu Ali Mustapha Brigades, committed suicide bombings against Israeli soldiers and civilians during the Second Intifada, and has continued to sporadically attack Israelis since.

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 prisoners in Israeli jails.

Senior Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) member Khalida Jarrar, sitting at the Ofer Military Court near Ramallah on May 21, 2015. (AP/Majdi Mohammed)

Military prosecutors, however, said that not enough evidence had been found to convict Jarrar of her involvement in the PFLP’s armed activities. Prosecutors said they had identified at least three meetings in 2014 in which Jarrar met with Walid Hanatsheh and Abd al-Raziq Faraj — PFLP members believed to be involved in Shnerb’s death.

But an Israeli security official, speaking on condition of anonymity, acknowledged that “not enough evidence was found with regard to the nature of her activities and the kinds of reports she received.”

The military prosecutor also said during her sentencing that she had not been directly involved in the terror group’s “military activities.” He also acknowledged that there had been “substantial evidentiary challenges in the proceedings.”

“The defendant worked mostly in political and nationalistic contexts vis-a-vis the Palestinian Authority, and was not directly involved in the military, organizational, and financial aspects of the group,” the prosecutor told the court.

Jarrar’s lawyers seized on this as clearing her name of the terror attack that led to her arrest, despite their client’s avowed membership in the terror group.

“Since the beginning of the arrest, the occupation authorities and their media have spread lies about the arrest of Jarrar in a miserable attempt to hold them responsible for the military operation in Ain Boubin,” Jarrar’s lawyers said in a statement following her plea bargain, referring to the spring where Shnerb was killed.

Before her plea bargain on Monday, Jarrar had been held for over a year without trial in Israeli prison under a rule known as administrative detention. The procedure, which is primarily used with Palestinians, enables Israeli security forces to detain suspects for months at a time without issuing an indictment.

Israeli security officials have defended the measure, arguing that 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.

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

Jarrar is also a well-known campaigner on behalf of Palestinian prisoners. She directed the Palestinian 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 denied 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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