State Gives In, Releases Mother of Nine from Disengagement Wing

By State Prosecution request, Ettie Meidad was suddenly released without restrictions Sunday afternoon, and is not required to appear in future court sessions. Seven girls remain, however.

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Hillel Fendel, | updated: 13:28

Ettie Meidad, wife of Honenu legal rights organization director Shmuel Meidad, was arrested last month and placed in prison, together with her now-9-month-old baby daughter Miriam. She was arrested on charges against her that were dropped two years ago, but which the State Prosecution suddenly decided to reactivate (see below) - and then just as suddenly, dropped them again today.

In a surprise move, the State Prosecution requested that she be released with no restrictions, and that she not be required to appear at further court sessions. Upon arriving at the gate to be released, however, Mrs. Meidad - wife of Honenu legal rights organization founder Shmuel Meidad - refused to go. She saw a young girl, one of the seven imprisoned in Maasiyahu Prison in Ramle for attempting to enter an area marked for disengagement, being beaten by guards. Mrs. Meidad said that she would not leave the prison until the girl was treated properly.

Finally, Mrs. Meidad was half-dragged out, while the girl was placed in isolation. The girl was punished because she refused to be subjected to a full-body search for drugs. "There is no reason that a young girl must be subjected to such an intimate search time after time, when there is no real suspicion that she is bringing in drugs," Mrs. Meidad said.

Before her abrupt release, Ettie Meidad was held in the Disengagement Wing of the Maasiyahu Prison in Ramle - where she and seven young girls complained of harassment directed specifically at them. They were willing to tolerate some of it, they said, but "on religious matters such as modesty, we won't give in."

Now that Mrs. Meidad is free, the girls fear that they will be treated more unfairly than before. One girl told Ettie that a women guard even told her as much.

"They try to harass us very often in jail," Ettie told Arutz-7's Elkanah Perl over the weekend, referring to herself and the seven female minors recently arrested for trying to enter Shomron areas the government wished to empty of Jews. "They have instructions to put pressure on us so that we will agree to their conditions. But we all refuse to agree to their restrictions."

As an example of the harassment, Mrs. Meidad said, "They don’t give us plates, and then they say, 'Make do without.' Or they lock us in our cells for no reason. They have also filled our rooms with all sorts of small lockers in order to make it hard for us to walk around. Their tone of voice is one of constant disdain and abuse. It's a daily struggle."

The girls have been offered a release on condition that they not leave their homes or communities, while Ettie herself was in prison for refusing to be tried at all. She was therefore imprisoned until the end of the proceedings against her - until today's special session. Her husband Shmuel predicted this morning - correctly, it turned out - that the authorities had tired of having her in prison, and were ready to cave in.

Two years ago, Ettie Meidad was acquitted of all charges related to a protest against the brutal expulsion of widow Livnat Ozeri from her hilltop home outside Kiryat Arba in March 2003. Ettie and three other women from Hevron protested against the nighttime eviction of the young mother and her young children, just several weeks after their husband/father was murdered by Palestinian terrorists.

The four protestors were tried afterwards for "child neglect" for having brought their children with them to the spontaneous demonstration at the site of the destroyed home. On a rainy and cold day, they closed themselves up in a car and refused to come out for several hours. Three of the women were convicted, but Mrs. Meidad was acquitted due to lack of evidence.

From the outset, she refused to attend the trial, believing it was a farce. After being forcefully brought to court for the first hearing, the trial judge granted Mrs. Meidad an exemption from attending the proceedings, and eventually acquitted her. The Prosecution later appealed the decision, and the appeal was accepted.

Last month, policemen arrived at the Meidad home in Hevron, demanding that she sign a writ in which she promises to either attend the trial or forfeit a sum of money. She refused to sign, and likewise refused to leave her young children alone and go with the police. Over 50 security forces were then called into action, including police, Border Guard police and soldiers, blocking off her Beit Hadassah neighborhood from east and west. After a two-hour standoff, they finally removed Ettie Meidad from her home, taking her three youngest children with them to the Gush Etzion police station. At about 10 PM, two children were forcibly taken from her, and were then brought, crying, to a foster family in Alon Shvut, from where their father Shmuel came to take them.

Ettie was held in prison ever since for not agreeing to stand trial. The Meidads decided not to appeal the court ruling, and Ettie explained at the time that she prefers to "sit in jail, despite the suffering my family and children will face, rather than cooperate with the evils perpetrated against our people. I will not cooperate with the forces who are expelling David Hatuel, a close friend of ours [whose wife and all four daughters were murdered by Palestinian terrorists in Gush Katif over a year ago], and with the forces who permitted the eviction of Livnat Ozeri and the destruction of her home. I will not cooperate with the forces who are planning to build a casino in Elei Sinai. If this is the price we have to pay, so be it."

The Honenu organization founded and directed by her husband Shmuel is an organization that specializes in providing free legal defense to people charged with crimes in the framework of opposing the disengagement plan. Almost every one of the hundreds of youths arrested for blocking roads and other anti-expulsion activities over the past several months has been represented by Honenu-hired lawyers. The organization is also active in defending those who face legal difficulties resulting from their acts of self-defense in response to Arab attacks.

Ettie was kept, with her baby daughter, in the N'vei Tirtzah women's prison for a week, but was moved afterwards to the less unpleasant Maasiyahu Prison. She said that she can accept the humiliations forced upon her by the Prison Service, but "religious issues are our red line. For instance, a mail jailer comes to physically check the women prisoners in the middle of the night, to see if they are breathing, despite our repeated requests that he not touch us. We complained to the head of the wing that he bring women jailers for this purpose, but he said he cannot do so - which we saw is not true. Finally, we came to an agreement that they call to us and we would get up out of bed - and so they purposely made an extra count in the middle of the night, just to harass us."

Another example, she said, was a request for "a curtain on the window of our doors, for purposes of modesty. Not only was that request turned down, but they threatened us with isolation for making the request." In fact, the girl who proposed the alternative to being physically touched at night was placed in isolation for her troubles.

Other examples include unnecessary body-checks, being prevented from remaining in the dining room to recite the Grace after Meals, and more.

A spokeswoman for the Prison Service told Arutz-7, "Our treatment of the disengagement arrestees is the same as that towards the others, with much understanding and consideration. They actually have very good relations with the management, which is always attentive to them. But at the same time, if there are cases of not following instructions, they stand trial within the prison."

The seven girls refuse not only to be released with restrictions, but also to be represented by anyone other than a Honenu-appointed lawyer. "I refuse to accept an order keeping me out of anywhere in the Land of Israel," one said. Another explained that she does not recognize the legal system, and that "G-d will judge me." One girl was asked why her parents did not arrive at the session, and she replied, "Why should they come? I don't want to be released with restrictions [which her parents would have to sign for - ed.], so why should they come?"

Justice Leora Brody, Deputy Chief Justice of the Rishon LeTzion Juvenile Court, wrote in her ruling, "On Aug. 31, I ordered their release with restrictions... They appeared today in court, unrepresented by the Public Defender, demanding to be represented by Honenu... Under the circumstances, I order that as long as they do not produce the required guarantees, they will remain in prison." She stipulated that they are to receive another hearing, because they are minors.

The more burning question, however, is how they will be treated now that their "prison mother," Ettie Meidad, won't be there to look out for their interests.

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