Levin, Smotrich reject court office request for public funds for lawyers to defend Oct. 7 terrorists

Jeremy Sharon is The Times of Israel’s legal affairs and settlements reporter

Justice Minister Yariv Levin attends a swearing in ceremony for newly appointed judges at the President's Residence in Jerusalem, on June 23, 2024. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)
Justice Minister Yariv Levin attends a swearing in ceremony for newly appointed judges at the President's Residence in Jerusalem, on June 23, 2024. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

Justice Minister Yariv Levin and Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich both blast requests from the Israel Court’s Administration to provide funding for private legal representation for unlawful terrorist combatants suspected of carrying out the October 7 atrocities.

“I stand by my decision, which was taken at the beginning of the war: the Justice Ministry will not finance [this], the Public Defender’s Office will not represent the Nukhba terrorists,” Levin vows in a statement to the press.

Smotrich makes similar comments, describing the request as “crazy” and saying he has instructed officials in the Finance Ministry not to provide any funding for the purpose of legal representation for the alleged terrorists.

“We are losing our sense of values, Israeli citizens will not fund from their money the legal defense for such disgusting enemies,” says the finance minister.

The hundreds of Hamas and other terrorist operatives suspected of perpetrating the October 7 atrocities who are currently being held by Israel have yet to be charged, but they have appeared before at least one court, either physically or by video link, for dealing with requests by the state to extend their detention.

The Israel Courts Administration says in response to the uproar that the courts are empowered to appoint defense attorneys for those who do not have legal representation and that suspects who “appear frontally” before the court are required by the law to have legal representation in order to hold such a hearing.

The courts processing these cases therefore issued decisions based on these laws to appoint private defense attorneys for the suspected terrorists, after the Public Defender’s Office refused to provide them with legal counsel. The funding for such representation must come from state funds, the law stipulates.

“The Israel Courts Administration turned to the Justice Ministry to examine how these judicial decisions will be implemented, and to find a funding source, and the issue is still under discussion,” the administration says.

The administration underlines that the judicial decisions appointing private attorneys for the alleged terrorists were taken because the law requires such representation for frontal hearings.

“The courts are not the ones who determined the legal situation,” the court administration says.

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