B'Tselem field researcher Nasser Nawaj’ah released after six day arrest

Published: 
25 Jan 2016

Judge finds that authorities failed to produce sufficient evidence that Nawaj’ah endangered a land dealer

Ofer Military Court yesterday (Jan. 24, 2016) ordered the release of B'Tselem field researcher Nasser Nawaj’ah, who was arrested on the night between Tuesday and Wednesday (Jan. 20, 2016). However, the judge delayed the execution of his decision for 24 hours in order to allow the police to appeal. The police announced this afternoon it will not pursue an appeal, which clears the way for his release in the coming hours.

Nasser Nawaj'ah brought to extension of detention hearing at Jerusalem Magistrate's Court, which ordered his release on Jan. 21, 2016. Photo: Oren Ziv, Activestills
Nasser Nawaj'ah brought to extension of detention hearing at Jerusalem Magistrate's Court, which ordered his release on Jan. 21, 2016. Photo: Oren Ziv, Activestills 

Military Judge Major Rani ‘Amer wrote in his decision that “it has not been clarified sufficiently, and on the basis of evidence, how the actions of the suspect before me actually endangered the said Israeli resident who ostensibly acted to sell the land of Palestinians.” The judge also rejected the police claims that Nawaj’ah presented a threat and was liable to disrupt the investigation.

During the hearing at Ofer Military Court, counsel for the police, Sergeant Major Avi Tivoni, responded to questions from Nawaj’ah’s counsel, Attorney Gaby Lasky. Tivoni admitted to the court that the suspicions relate to events that ostensibly occurred about one year ago, and that the land dealer who was allegedly threatened, according to the “Uvda” television program, is an Israeli resident who lives within Israel with his wife and children and who did not complain to the police about the matter at the time. Responding to a question from Attorney Lasky, Tivoni confirmed that a Palestinian resident who wishes to approach the law-enforcement authorities on a matter concerning a Palestinian in the Occupied Territories is indeed supposed to turn to the Palestinian authorities. Counsel for the police further confirmed that the application for detention does not suspect Nawaj’ah of offenses relating to the death of the Palestinian known as “Abu Khalil” – the other incident presented in the “Uvda” broadcast.

Later in the hearing, the judge asked counsel for the police whether the investigators have any evidence concerning what – if anything – is done to an Israeli resident whose name is transferred to the Palestinian Authority on suspicion of selling land. Counsel for the police admitted that he did not know and that the investigation has not yielded any information on this matter. Attorney Lasky stated: “My friend’s reply to the Court’s question is nothing less than amazing. According to this reply, there is no evidence that there is even an offense. What my friend is seeking to do is to detain people in order to set out on a fishing expedition in order to examine what might possibly be the fate of a person if he were transferred to the Palestinian Authority. From the standpoint of a proper investigation, it should first have been substantiated what happens when someone is transferred to the Palestinian Authority.

B'Tselem expressed satisfaction with the court’s finding that the investigative material does not include evidence suggesting that a complaint to the Palestinian Authority regarding suspicion of the sale of land leads to injury or endangers a land dealer. This contradicts the claim made in the “Uvda” report, on the basis of an investigation funded in part by the extreme-right wing organization the Samaria Settlers’ Committee. It would seem that a political investigation that seeks only to incriminate and entrap left-wing and human rights activists by the use of self-appointed secret police has driven itself into the brick wall of reality. We will continue to work until Nasser's full acquittal.