Meir Ettinger
Meir EttingerReuters

Attorney Yuval Zemer, who is representing nationalist activist Meir Ettinger, spoke to Arutz Sheva on Tuesday following a debate on administrative detainees at the Knesset's Constitution, Law and Justice Committee.

Ettinger, along with two other Jewish youths, has been held for several long months on administrative detention orders, a relic from the British mandate period almost exclusively used against Arab terror suspects that allows jailing without any charges, trial or evidence.

"No one claims that thanks to the administrative detentions there is less terror," said Zemer, noting how the detention of the three Jews has in fact been followed by a wave of Arab terrorist attacks.

The lawyer acknowledged that "administrative arrests are an undeniable necessity, a tool that must remain in the toolbox of the security forces in the reality we live in."

"At the same time, there is a need to examine the legal procedures and the manner in giving attorneys tools to deal with the mountains of intelligence material that we are not exposed to, so that there be true judicial review."

Political arrests

Zemer argued that in many cases, the use of the controversial administrative orders stems not from a desire to keep sensitive sources of information secret, but rather from the laziness of security and law enforcement officials.

"In many cases the 'bypass road' of criminal law becomes the main path," he charged. "The system is too lazy to gather evidence so as to put (suspects) on criminal trial, as needs to be done, and instead it deals with administrative arrests."

Referring to Ettinger's arrest without trial, Zemer said his client was being held on a political arrest with no basis.

He argued that "a portion of the administrative arrests are in my eyes political arrests, like for example the arrest of Ettinger, which is the silencing of a voice that maybe isn't pleasant for some people to hear, but you don't put people under arrest for opinions and ideas."

Ettinger, a grandson of former MK Rabbi Meir Kahane who was assassinated by an Arab terrorist in 1990 and who called to transfer Arab residents out of Israel, was detained in early August for his alleged involvement in “organizing extremist Jewish activities in Judea and Samaria."

No evidence or details have been presented to back up the vague claims, and officials have repeatedly acknowledged he is not a suspect in the case of the deadly arson in the Palestinian village of Duma - the incident which was used as a pretext for his and several other administrative detentions.

"A draconian tool"

At the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee discussion, Anne Suciu of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel spoke about a proposal to have the state comptroller investigate the administrative arrests.

"A review of the state comptroller is a step in the right direction that could, maybe, reveal the unusual and disproportional usage of this tool of administrative arrests," Suciu told Arutz Sheva.

She noted that the Association for Civil Rights in Israel fundamentally opposes the use of administrative arrests, a position that clashes with that of Zemer who portrayed them as a necessary evil.

"We think that the usage of it is invalid," she said.

"It isn't proper that the freedom of a person be negated without a fair process and without seeing the materials upon the basis of which their freedom is negated. There is a fundamental claim against the use of this draconian tool."

Suciu concluded by saying that from the figures presented in the discussion, "the number of (administrative) arrests is only increasing. Today there are 550 administrative detainees, and most of them are Palestinian."