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Israel's High Court frees 2 foreign activists

Feb. 8, 2010 2:02 P.M. (Updated: Feb. 9, 2010 2:06 P.M.)
Bethlehem – Ma'an – Israel's High Court of Justice on Monday freed two foreign nationals who were detained early Sunday in Ramallah.

Ariadna Marti of Spain and Bridgett Chappel of Australia, activists with the International Solidarity Movement, posted a 3,000-shekel bail and will be permitted to remain in Israel while they challenge a deportation order.

The High Court accepted that the detentions may have been illegal, because they reportedly involved Israel's special "Oz" immigration unit, which is permitted to handle only cases of foreigners in Israel. Marti and Chappel, however, were in Ramallah, a city supposedly under control of the Palestinian Authority.

"The raid and detention of the two is in direct violation of the Oslo Accords between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, which clearly forbids any Israeli incursion into Area A for reasons not directly and urgently related to security. Even the conduct of 'hot pursuit' is disallowed in non-security related matters, which overstayed visas are," the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee said in a statement.

The Israeli army raided the activists' apartment in the Area A at 3am on Sunday and arrested the two on suspicion of overstaying their visas. They were then taken to the Ofer military prison located inside the occupied territories, where they were handed over to "Oz."

An Israeli military spokesman told Ma'an that the women were in Israel illegally and that the arrests were executed by the army, adding that one woman was in possession of "fake documents" while the other held an expired visa. "Both were involved in illegal riots and in interferring with IDF activity," he said. According to the spokesman, the two women were transferred to the Ministry of the Interior.

Ryan Olander, an American solidarity activist who was present during the raid, told the PSCC that around 10 soldiers forcefully entered the apartment, demanded to see the passports of everyone inside, and informed the two of their detentions on the grounds of overstayed visas. The soldiers confiscated cameras, a computer, pro-Palestinian banners and ISM volunteers' registration forms, Orlander said.

Orlander has been arrested twice by the Oz Immigration Unit but his deportation was stayed after a judge ruled his detention illegal, the PSCC said.

Latest in a series of raids

An American woman, 27, was detained along with two Palestinians by Israeli forces during a night raid in the village of Bil'in last Wednesday. The Israeli military said the US woman, who was not identified, interfered in the work of the army and attempted to "prevent Israeli soldiers from carrying out their duty." The army also said the actions of the woman caused rioting in the area.

International peace activists have been staying overnight in the village of Bil'in since the Israeli army began night raids into the village, initially following each Friday's demonstration against the separation wall being constructed on village lands. Night raids became regular during the fall of 2009.

In January, Czech national Eva Nováková, the ISM's media coordinator, was detained from her home in Ramallah during a night raid and deported the following day.

PCHR condemns

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) condemned what it termed the continued persecution of international human rights defenders in the West Bank by Israeli forces, as well as the deportations.

In a statement, the PCHR said it was concerned about such measures, which the group alleged are aimed at expelling international witnesses of human rights violations perpetrated by Israeli forces against Palestinian civilians during protests against separation wall and settlement activities.
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