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High Court Rebuffs Jewish Security Prisoner's Visit Plea

Top court disallows partition-less family visits with long-term Jewish security prisoner Shlomi Dvir - despite opposite ruling for Arab terrorists.
By Hillel Fendel
First Publish: 7/14/2010, 3:46 PM / Last Update: 7/14/2010, 3:51 PM

Honenu

The Supreme Court has rejected a request by long-term Jewish security prisoner Shlomi Dvir to allow his wife and children to visit him without a partition in between them.

This, despite the fact that a similar request by Arab terrorist prisoners was accepted just several weeks ago.

The Court ruled that it saw no reason to intervene in the decisions of the Israel Prison Service on the matter - decisions that are known to be initiated by the Jewish Department of the Israel Security Agency (Shabak).

Dvir was sentenced nine years ago to 15 years in prison for his role in a failed bombing of a girls’ school in eastern Jerusalem, following the terrorist murder of five-year-old Danielle Shefi in her home in Adora, near Hevron. Ofer Gamliel, Dvir’s neighbor both in the Jewish community of Bat Ayin in Gush Etzion and in prison, was similarly sentenced to 15 years for the same incident. Both Dvir and Gamliel are not allowed vacation time – a right normally accorded to prisoners each month – nor are they permitted to be visited by non-family members. Even their children are not granted the same cultural program rights granted to other prisoners' children.

The Israel Prison Service enacted about a year ago a new framework for family visits. Instead of the families sitting together in one room, a partition with windows was installed, with the prisoners on one side and the families on the other. The Gamliel family refused to visit at all under these circumstances, until finally the authorities relented and agreed to allow them one non-partition visit each month. 

The Dvir’s, however, found themselves unable to follow this course, and their only physical contact with their father came when they were able to crawl through the window in the partition – depending on whether the jailers that day turned a blind eye or not.

The Dvir family, therefore, petitioned the Court to allow them to visit without a partition – leading to today's rejection by the Supreme Court.

Atty. Wurtzberger's View
Attorney Naftali Wurtzberger, hired by the Honenu Legal Rights Forum for the case,
 later told Israel National News, “The judges stated they did not wish to intervene in the security decisions of the jails… There was some discomfort when it was mentioned that the Court did intervene on behalf of terrorists recently - but they did not substantively relate to that ruling…”

Wurtzberger said there was a veiled hint on the part of State Prosecution representatives that if the Court allowed the improved visits, the Prison Service could respond by harming Dvir’s rights in other ways, such as moving him out of the religious ward. In response to a question, Wurtzberger acknowledged that the lack of fairness “does arouse some despair…” Asked if he retains confidence in the judicial system, he said, “There’s certainly a feeling of trying to climb up a slippery wall …”

A Third Off for Good Behavior?
Is there a chance that Gamliel and Dvir will be released on parole after serving 2/3 of their sentences? Ofer Gamliel’s wife Michal says, "Maybe." She told Israel National News that though it is generally accepted that if a prisoner does not receive vacation rights, he similarly will not get a third off for good behavior, and though the Shabak does not appear to want to allow any leniencies for her husband or for Dvir, “there is a chance that if there is a public outcry, something could change. It could be the difference between him being in prison for ten years or for 15.”

She suggested that the public begin with phone calls and letters to Justice Minister Yaakov Ne’eman, “who has promised to help in the past, both in terms of a pardon and the proposed law to link the release of Arab terrorists with the release of Jewish  - , but he has done nothing yet.” Minister Ne’eman can be faxed at (+972-2) (or 02, in Israel) 628-5438, and emailed at <sar@justice.gov.il>.