Israel Supreme Court Turns Down Arab Prisoner’s Freedom Plea

The Israel Supreme Court rejected today a bid for habeas corpus made by Ahmed Osman, an Egyptian journalist who is being held on suspicion of having organized the jailbreak at Shattah Prison in northern Israel earlier this summer.

The plaintiff was brought into court on a stretcher from a hospital where he has been treated for a leg wound suffered during the prison riot. Osman, who came from London where the Israel Embassy issued him a visa, was arrested and was being held at Shattah Prison on suspicion of espionage, when the riot occurred.

The Attorney General, replying for the government, asked Osman’s continued detention, asserting that a preliminary investigation was completed and charges would soon be brought to a court asking Osman’s trial for his part in the break, in which a number of persons lost their lives.

While the Egyptian newspapermen did not challenge his original arrest, he appealed for a writ against the Israel Government on the following grounds: he had not been permitted to contact the International Red Cross; he was treated like a convict despite the fact that he had not been sentenced by any court, and he was being held in solitary confinement, a form of punishment. In court, Osman added a fourth point–he asked for permission to here counsel for his defense from abroad.

The Attorney General, in reply, said that the authorities had not received a request for a Red Cross representative to meet with Osman, but there was no objection to such a meeting. He denied that the Arab had been treated like a convict, noting that he had received special privileges. He also denied the solitary confinement charge, pointing to Osman’s presence in a hospital room. Finally, the government’s representative said that Osman could, as the law provides, engage an Israeli attorney who then had the right to invite counsel from abroad to join in Osman’s defense.

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