Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein submitted requests Tuesday to re-imprison seven Palestinian Jerusalem residents freed in the 2011 deal to release captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, stating that the men were in breach of their release terms.
The men’s attorney claimed that the move was a politically motivated punishment following the abduction in the West Bank of three Israeli teens on June 12.
According to a report in the Haaretz daily, the state prosecution is demanding that the men be returned to jail to serve the remainder of their original sentences and on Thursday will submit evidence to the court which ostensibly validates its claim, though the defendants and their attorneys will not be privy to it.
The seven are residents of East Jerusalem and are therefore permanent residents of Israel. Each of the released men signed a document in which they vowed not to take part in any violent or otherwise illegal activity against Israel and were forbidden from entering the West Bank or the Gaza Strip for a three-year period.
Defense Attorney Avigdor Feldman, who represents the men, attacked the state prosecution’s request, calling it “an entirely political move” and saying it was vindictive action on the part of Israel, which has arrested 57 Palestinian security prisoners freed in the Shalit deal in the 12 days since Operation Brother’s Keeper to return the three kidnapped teens began.
“All of the requests are based on privileged information, not even one detail of which has been revealed to us,” Feldman said. “It’s obvious that this is a punitive measure by the State of Israel due to the abduction and a misuse of the courts and the law.”
On Monday night, Channel 10 reported that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered Israeli forces looking for the three kidnapped teens to re-arrest dozens of Palestinian prisoners who were freed in the Shalit exchange, after he was informed that Ziad Awad, a convicted terrorist released as part of the deal, had been arrested in May for the Passover eve murder of an off-duty policeman near Hebron.
Netanyahu reportedly ordered the military to seize other prisoners freed in the 2011 deal with Hamas because he felt “pressured” to respond to the fact that it was a prisoner freed by Israel, in the controversial Shalit deal that he approved, who had committed the murder of father-of-five Baruch Mizrahi.
While some were arrested for violating the terms of their release — for example, by once again taking part in terrorist activity — others were arrested for minor misdemeanors, such as illegal entry to Israel, the TV report said.
The practice of releasing prisoners in exchange for kidnapped soldiers and other captive Israelis has always been highly controversial. Intelligence sources estimate that 60 percent of those who have been freed in these lopsided deals over the decades have subsequently been jailed again for terrorism.
Netanyahu’s decision to release 78 Palestinian prisoners in the framework of the failed nine-month peace effort, which collapsed in April, also attracted considerable domestic criticism.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman (Yisrael Beitenu) and Economy Minister Naftali Bennett (Jewish Home) have spoken out since the three teens were kidnapped against the notion of any prisoner exchange to secure their release, and legislation preventing such exchanges is making its way through the Knesset.
The gag order on the Mizrahi case was lifted Monday, leading the Shin Bet to announce that the man who had gunned down the off-duty policeman had been freed by Israel three years earlier.
The shooting was religiously motivated, the Shin Bet security service said, with the elder Awad telling his son that “according to Islam, whoever kills a Jew goes to heaven.”
Awad, who spent 12 years in an Israeli prison for the murder of Palestinian collaborators with Israel, was released in 2011 as part of the prisoner exchange for Shalit before completing his term. Shalit was held hostage in Gaza for five years, having been captured in a Hamas raid into southern Israel in which two other Israeli soldiers were killed.
Mizrahi, senior police officer, was killed while driving to Hebron to celebrate Passover with his wife’s family. His pregnant wife, Hadas, was moderately injured in the attack.
On Monday, Hadas said she had always opposed prisoner exchanges, including the one that freed Shalit. She also said she hoped her husband’s murderers “get the punishment they deserve: the death penalty and not life imprisonment.”
Marissa Newman and Yifa Yaakov contributed to this report.