Public Security Minister Omer Barlev (Labor) and Knesset Speaker Mickey Levy (Yesh Atid) have agreed on a new outline that will permit Knesset members to make prison visits to security prisoners (those imprisoned for terrorist activity). The new outline will come into force on August 1st and will remain in force, all things being equal, for a period of one year, during which the system will be monitored and changes made as needed.
According to a report in the IsraelHayom newspaper, Levy and Barlev intend with their outline to preserve the rights of Knesset members from all parties, and also to protect the interests of security prisoners being held in Israel.
Knesset members almost entirely ceased making prison visits in 2016 following the recommendation of then-Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan (Likud) due to the abuse of the practice by Arab MK Basel Ghattas of the Joint List party, who was sentenced to serve two years behind bars for smuggling cell phones to security prisoners.
The government had proposed establishing a new procedure whereby each political party would appoint one representative to visit security prisoners, but after this plan was presented to the Supreme Court, Minister Barlev and Speaker Levy began discussions on adapting the plan, and it was agreed that they would develop an alternative plan that would protect the rights of each and every Knesset member to visit security prisoners, while providing safeguards against security breaches.
The new outline requires a Knesset member who wishes to visit a security prisoner to coordinate his visit in advance with the Minister for Public Security, who will in turn pass on the request to the office of the Prisons Commissioner. The Commissioner will then seek out the opinions of all relevant security officials in order to ascertain that no security risks are involved in such a visit.
The entire process of obtaining permission for a visit is supposed to take a maximum of five working days -- however, either the Minister for Public Security or the Prisons Commissioner may delay granting permission or refuse to grant it if security concerns justify such a decision. Likewise, authorization may be revoked if new concerns come to light following permission being granted. In such cases, if the concerns become inapplicable at a future point, the Commissioner will be obligated to reconsider the case.
Valid reasons for denying a visit will include a reasonable suspicion that the visit poses a threat to state security, public safety, the well-being of a specific person, or the security of the prison itself including maintenance of discipline. The Prisons Commissioner will also be permitted to deny a visit if he believes that it is liable to aid the activities of terrorist organizations, or if the visit could potentially cause difficulties with an ongoing investigation.
The new outline will allow each Knesset member to visit two security prisoners during any one visit, but separately. If the visit is approrved, but security concerns remain, the Prisons Commissioner will be permitted to impose various restrictions in order to supervise the visit.