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Girls Still in Prison, Despite Supreme Court Order

Contrary to the best efforts - and orders - of Supreme Court Justice E. Rubenstein to free six girls from prison after two weeks, they have not yet been released.
By Hillel Fendel
First Publish: 11/28/2005, 11:18 PM / Last Update: 11/28/2005, 10:26 AM

The girls, aged 14-16, are accused of ripping open bags of olives harvested by Arabs from Sinjil, near Shilo, and with fighting with policemen who came to arrest them. Officials of the Honenu legal rights organization, which is representing them, say the evidence against them is flimsy at best - but that in any event, their place is not in prison.

Honenu founder and chairman Shmuel Medad told Arutz-7, "No one saw these girls during the incident, and everything is based on the testimony of one or two Arabs... In addition, the court already ordered them released, and even then, they were re-arrested a day later once again."

After they were first arrested on Nov. 13, at least two judges ordered them released, but the police and State Prosecution, using various legal devices, continued to keep them in prison until Nov. 17. The next day, they were brought once again to court, where the judge acceded to a police request to keep them in prison until the end of the proceedings.

Despite the above, an earlier ruling by Jerusalem District Court Judge Yosef Shapira ordered the consideration of a form of house arrest for the six - but he set the date for the hearing only for Dec. 5. The girls therefore remained in prison.

At this point, Supreme Court Elyakim Justice Rubenstein [pictured] came to the rescue - or tried to. Atty. Naftali Wurtzberger of Honenu said that Rubenstein, in yesterday's hearing, decided to put aside the legal argumentation and concentrate on the "human problem" of the girls who "are sitting in jail while waiting for a report of alternatives."

Rubenstein set facts on the ground by ordering the girls freed to their home communities - though not their own homes. He said that they should be released that very evening, even before all the paperwork, including payment of guarantees and the like, was completed. He also asked the relevant authorities to "hurry" their report on an alternative form of restriction of the girls' movement, such as house arrest.

In the event, however, once again the legal system got the better of the judges, and the girls had still not been released as of this afternoon (Monday). The mother of one of the girls said, "I called the prison, and they said that they knew nothing of a release, and had heard nothing from any court. I feel that they are simply toying with me." She later called and found out that three of the girls had been kept in isolation until this morning.

The 16-year-old sister of one of the six is also in prison. She has been incarcerated for two months, charged with offenses related to protesting withdrawals from the Land of Israel. She refuses to agree to restrictions placed on her by a court that does not employ Jewish Law. Another of her sisters is to be married tomorrow night, and it is not clear whether she will be allowed to go to the wedding.

Another immediate problem she faces is that as of Saturday night, she has been in isolation - without even a mattress to sleep on. Her mother said, "Some girls stood outside the prison on Saturday night and called out to her and tried to encourage her, as they have been doing for several weeks. My daughter apparently called out her thanks and said she heard them - and then the jailers put her in isolation. From what the other girls report, it means that she doesn't even get a mattress. In addition, she hasn't called me, which to me is the clearest sign that she's in isolation."

Knesset Member Gila Finkelstein, who has helped out in similar situations before, has been approached regarding this problem.