JERUSALEM (Dec. 27)
Israel’s military courts will seek speedy trials for Palestinians arrested during nearly three weeks of violent disturbances in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. But the prisoners will not be denied their full rights under the law, Israel Defense Force Judge Advocate General Amnon Streshnov said Sunday.
Streshnov told reporters that some 200 criminal proceedings have opened so far against suspected rioters, out of more than 1,000 taken into custody in the territories. He conceded that the rapid pace of the trials was unusual, but noted that the scope of the violence had been extraordinary too.
One of the first of the “fast trials” was held in a military court Sunday in Nablus. Of 34 defendants charged, all but three pleaded “not guilty.” Two of the three, who confessed to rock throwing, were sentenced to six weeks in jail. An eight-month sentence was given a 17-year-old youth who admitted he threw rocks at Israeli vehicles.
Other trials began Sunday in Dahariya, near Hebron, and in Gaza. Because of the abnormally heavy case load, employees of the military judicial system are working overtime.
But problems are developing. Defense lawyers in Gaza have been boycotting the courts for the past two weeks to protest the dragnet-style mass arrests. As a result, the accused have been forced to appear in court without legal counsel.
LITTLE TIME TO PREPARE CASES
The Palestinians’ lawyers say the arrests were so fast and so numerous they had no time to prepare their clients’ cases. Streshnov rejected that complaint. He said whenever a lawyer wanted a day or two for preparation, it was granted.
He pointed out that the law does not require an accused person to be represented by legal counsel, it merely gives him the right to be represented. He added that the trials would go ahead, regardless of the lawyers’ boycott.
Widespread expulsions are anticipated to follow the trials. So far, no deportation orders have been issued. Streshnov assured reporters that those offenders ordered deported will have sufficient time to file appeals with Israel’s Supreme Court.
The defense establishment was reported Sunday to be culling the lists of those arrested for sufficient evidence to order deportations that will stand the test of hearings before the high court. According to informed sources cited by the news media, the authorities are actively considering 15 to 18 possible deportations.
But the question has arisen of where the deportees will be sent. It is considered likely that Palestinians ordered deported from the West Bank would be sent to Jordan and those deported from the Gaza Strip would be sent to Egypt, which controlled that territory between 1948 and 1967.
EGYPT, JORDAN REJECT DEPORTEES
According to Davar, however, neither Egypt nor Jordan will accept Palestinians expelled by Israel. Osama El-Baz, political adviser to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, made that clear to Abdul Wahab Daroushe of Labor, an Israeli Arab member of the Knesset, who visited Cairo last week, the newspaper reported.
Maariv reported that refusals by Mubarak and King Hussein of Jordan to accept deportees were in response to requests by Palestine Liberation Organization chief Yasir Arafat.
Hadashot noted that the IDF has employed several methods of deportation in past years. In the early 1970s, deportees were given a few dinars (Jordanian currency), a white flag and sent on foot to Jordan.
Later, most deportees were sent across the Jordan River bridges and were met on the east bank by Jordanian police, who placed them under arrest. Still later, after Jordan refused to accept deportees, Israel expelled rioters and agitators to Lebanon.
In past years, the legality of the deportations has been challenged by Arab mayors in the administered territories. In each case, the deportations were upheld by the Israeli Supreme Court.
While the mayors claimed violations of international law, Justices Moshe Landau and Yitzhak Cohen ruled that the 1945 Defense Emergency Act, promulgated under the British Mandate and retained by Israel, takes precedence over international law.
CONTROVERSY OVER AGES
Another controversy has arisen, meanwhile, over the ages of the Palestinians presently in custody. According to Palestinian sources, 85 percent of the 500 to 600 arrested in the Gaza Strip are between the ages of 14 and 17.
An Israeli military source in the West Bank said most of the detainees are between 17 and 27. The source said the IDF was under strict orders not to arrest anyone under 12.
“There are only one or two detainees who are younger than 14, and they were arrested only after a specific approval by the legal adviser of the central command,” the source said.