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Shin Bet seeking to change laws of evidence in 'terrorism' cases

Jan. 12, 2016 10:57 A.M. (Updated: Feb. 25, 2016 4:21 P.M.)
(AFP/Saif Dahlah, File)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Israel's domestic intelligence agency on Monday requested a change in Israeli law that would allow a wider ranger of evidence to be used against Palestinian prisoners in "terrorism cases."

An official representing Shin Bet told the Knesset's Constitution, Law and Justice committee that the agency "has been forced to release many terrorists and will continue to do so without a major change to the laws," according to a statement released by the Knesset Tuesday.

Shin Bet requested a change to the laws that would allow Israeli courts to accept as evidence incriminating statements made outside of court, "before a defendant may even be under investigation."

Israel's attorney-general, Yehuda Weinstein, backed the request, saying a change in law could "help bring justrice to terrorists who otherwise get put in administrative detention," the statement said.

However, the Knesset committee's legal adviser said that a change in law would be "dangerous" and would "overturn a basic principle of criminal law requiring testimony to be given in court, which allows a defendant to cross-examine his accuser."

But most members of the parliamentary committee appeared to support the request. Committee Chairman Nissan Slomiansky, a member of the far-right Jewish Home party, said he believed it was "permitted to deviate from criminal law when dealing with terror."

MK Haim Jelin said that testimonies recorded outside of court were "gold," and would "allow us to catch the next terrorist. I don't care about cross-examination. It's humane as far as I am concerned."

MK Anat Berko, a member of the dominant Likud party, said: "The war on terror is not an exact science. We must give the forces the tools to gather as much intelligence as possible."

Palestinian prisoners' rights group Addameer estimated in December that Israel was holding 6,800 political prisoners, including as many as 660 under administrative detention -- internment without trial or charge.

Administrative detainees are held on secret evidence and are not aware of the reason for their detention, which can be renewed indefinitely in six-month periods.

Israeli officials have in the past claimed that administrative detention is an essential tool in preventing attacks and protecting sensitive intelligence by allowing them to keep evidence secret.

However, it has been strongly criticized by the international community which says that international law allows for such detention only under extreme circumstances, whereas Israel uses it as a punitive measure on a routine basis to circumvent the justice system.

Activists have called on Israeli authorities to charge or release those held under administrative detention.
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