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Jerusalem Court Cuts Detention of Palestinian Activist by Half

February 4, 1991
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

The Jerusalem District Court on Sunday reduced by half the six month administrative detention order against Dr. Sari Nusseibeh, a leading Palestinian nationalist alleged by the Israeli military authorities to have passed intelligence to Iraq.

The move took the security establishment by surprise inasmuch as Israeli jurists have rarely intervened against military decisions to exercise punitive measures against Palestinian activists.

But the authorities apparently will not appeal the court’s ruling.

Sympathizers with the 41-year-old academician seized upon the court’s action as proof that Nusseibeh was detained Jan. 29 for political not security reasons.

A statement issued by the Israeli movement Peace Now noted that the court reduced Nusseibeh’s detention after studying the classified material alleged to incriminate him.

The fact the authorities accepted the decision without appeal proved they had no “substantive case” against Nusseibeh, Peace Now said.

But Danny Naveh, media spokesman for Defense Minister Moshe Arens, who signed the detention order, said the defense authorities stood by their charge that Nusseibeh maintained contact “with an official Iraqi element and with Palestine Liberation Organization activists who were trying to obtain intelligence information for Iraq.”

He said in the course of those contacts, Nusseibeh passed on war-related information.

The Oxford-educated lecturer at Bir Zeit University in the West Bank, which has been closed since the intifada began three years ago, was accused by Israel of letting the Iraqis know where their Scud missiles landed.


Naveh said the defense authorities would now review the feasibility of pressing formal charges against Nusseibeh while he is serving his three-month detention.

According to Naveh, the decision not to try him for his alleged contacts with “hostile elements” was made for security reasons. A trial might have exposed “legal sources,” he said.

Administrative detention, a holdover from the emergency regulations of the British Mandate, permit a suspect to be kept in custody for up to six months at a time with neither trial nor specific charges.

Justice Vardi Seiler, president of the court, did not comment on the quality of evidence against Nusseibeh. He expressed hope, however, that the Persian Gulf war would be over by the time the Palestinian activist completed his term and therefore “the purpose of the detention would be achieved.”

Jerusalem police, meanwhile, questioned another prominent Palestinian activist, Faisal Husseini, for two hours Friday. They said it had nothing to do with Nusseibeh’s arrest.

Husseini was grilled for allegedly trying to bribe and pressure witnesses to the Oct. 8 Temple Mount riots, when Israeli border police killed at least 17 Palestinian rock-throwers. The police said he is suspected of having used “threats and extortion” to influence the testimony of Arab eyewitnesses. They said witnesses admitted giving false testimony under threats.

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