Mountain-to-Molehill Saga Ends: Pass and Shvo Freed

Yitzchak Pass and Matityahu Shvo, who were jailed two years ago on charges of possession of dynamite, were freed today from prison - 8 months after their request for parole was denied.

, | updated: 11:27

They were originally arrested in July 2003, amidst great secrecy and veiled accusations that a major Jewish terrorist cell had been cracked open. Atty. Naftali Wurzberger, hired to defend them, accurately predicted that the case would end up in a "mountain to molehill" fashion - and in December 2003, they were convicted not of terrorist gang membership, but only of possession of eight dynamite bricks.

Pass lives in Hevron, and Shvo, his brother-in-law, is a resident of the nearby Jewish community of Maon. Pass, a terrorism-bereaved father, lost his 10-month-old daughter Shalhevet in March 2001. He was about to take her out of her stroller when a terrorist placed her in the sights of his gun and shot a bullet through her skull. The murder occurred in the Avraham Avinu neighborhood of Hevron, and Pass too was wounded in the attack.

For two weeks after their arrest, Pass and Shvo were not allowed to meet with family members or their lawyer. They were originally sentenced to 15 months in prison, but in April 2004, Supreme Court justices Dorit Beinish, Eliezer Rivlin and Salim Jubran accepted the State's appeal and increased the sentence to two years.

Throughout their incarceration, they were treated particularly harshly. "Even actual murderers, after serving a quarter of their sentence, are allowed 48-hour furloughs with their families," said a woman familiar with cases of this nature last year. "But Yitzchak Pass and Mati Shvo have not been allowed out even once, even though they have been in prison for a year. The Shabak has targeted them in an attempt to intimidate the Jews of Hevron. The fact that they have not been given normal furlough privileges is a clear sign that the Shabak plans to have them serve their entire sentence without parole, despite their good behavior."

Her prediction proved right, as in October of 2004, their request for parole was turned down. In addition, even their most recent request for a short vacation - to spend the Passover seder with their families - was turned down.

The General Security Services (GSS), however, after showing such harshness to Pass over the past two years, made an abrupt turnabout in recent days. Family members said GSS agents offered to "open a new page" with him, asking him to cooperate with them and provide them with information on "impending activities." Pass turned them down, reminding them of his rejected parole request and other similar treatment.

Many people were on hand at the prison to greet them as they were freed, and the festivities will continue in Hevron as well.