Israeli law enforcement agencies are not revealing to detainees which of their social media posts led to the issuance of a warrant for their arrest and their subsequent detention, a press release said on Wednesday.
This practice is being employed disproportionally against Palestinian citizens of Israel and seriously impairs their ability to defend themselves, Adalah â€“ The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights, said in the release.
WAFA reports that Adalah sent a letter on September 11 calling on Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit and State Attorney Shai Nitzan to order Israeli police to disclose to suspects and their lawyers during pre-trial detention hearings the content of the social media posts that allegedly constitute a criminal offense, such as incitement and other crimes of expression.
Adalah Attorney Fady Khoury wrote in the letter that this policy severely harms suspectsâ€™ rights.
â€śThis problematic practice essentially turns an initial arrest into a full-fledged administrative detention. It is not just that the evidentiary materials collected by police are kept from detainees and their lawyers, but that the [social media] content for which the arrest was carried out is left undefined,â€ť he wrote.
â€śJust as it would be unthinkable to arrest someone suspected of theft without informing them or their lawyer during the pre-trial detention stage what they are believed to have stolen â€¦ and just as one cannot be arrested on suspicion of murder while the identity of the victim is left undisclosed until after an indictment is filed, so it is also in the case of an individual arrested on suspicion of committing a crime of expression involving a publication: there is a duty to inform suspects and their lawyers of the content of the expression, i.e. the ‘publication,â€™ on which the arrest warrant is based.â€ť
Adalahâ€™s letter included numerous examples of arrests of Palestinian citizens of Israel carried out for alleged crimes of expression, during the course of which the statements that formed the very grounds for the arrests were kept classified. For example, Razi Nabulsi, a Palestinian Arab citizen of Israel, was arrested on suspicion of â€śpublishing a statement in support of a terrorist organizationâ€ť, but Israeli police maintained a ban on release of Nabulsiâ€™s statement that formed the basis for his arrest for the entire duration of his seven-day detention.
Attorney Khoury wrote: â€śThe arrest of individuals suspected of incitement, for example â€“ without revealing the statements that form the basis for the arrest â€“ constitutes a serious infringement of suspectsâ€™ rights to due process, undermines the purpose of the criminal process, and severely s detaineesâ€™ rights to plead their case and defend themselves.â€ť
The vast majority of arrests made in Israel in 2015 and the first half of 2016 for charges related to alleged incitement on social media outlets were of Palestinian citizens.
According to Israeli police statistics, 82 percent of individuals arrested for incitement-related offenses in 2016 were Palestinian citizens, whereas only 18 percent were Jewish Israeli citizens. Statistics for 2015 are similar: 81 percent of those arrested for incitement-related violations were Palestinian citizens and 19 percent were Jewish Israeli. In 2015, 43 people were charged with incitement-related offenses, 40 Palestinian citizens and three Jewish citizens (seven percent).
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Chris Carlson is a student of religion at Mount Mercy University, United States, and has been a regular volunteer with the IMEMC since 2013. He assisted in providing extensive coverage of the 2014 Israeli military offensive on the Gaza Strip and continues, into the present day, with the issues at hand. He can be reached via email at c h r i s @ i m e m c . o r g.