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Israel judge orders release of Gaza fishermen over blockade protest, state to appeal

Gaza fishermen catch sardines [Mohammed Asad/Middle East Monitor]
Gazan fishermen back on shore in Gaza on January 23, 2018 [Mohammed Asad / Middle East Monitor]

An Israeli judge yesterday ordered the release from custody of two Palestinian fishermen from the occupied Gaza Strip detained during anti-blockade protests, reported Haaretz.

The decision by Be’er Sheva District Court Judge Eliahu Bitan sends the case back to the magistrate’s court “to set the terms for the defendants’ release”, said the paper, but “the prosecutor’s office said it may appeal to the Supreme Court against the decision to release the two”.

According to Haaretz, Khaled Hassi, 24, and his nephew, Mohammed Hassi, 18, were accused by Israeli authorities of “membership in a terrorist organisation and illegal activity for participating in protests on boats that sought to break the Israeli naval blockade of Gaza”.

Judge Bitan called the decision to indict “clearly inappropriate, legally and morally”.

READ: Israel warns it may reduce Gaza fishing zone even further

The indictment claimed that the anti-blockade protests constituted participation in the activists of Hamas, and also cited an interview Hassi gave to Al Jazeera before the boats departed.

“Bitan noted that even though the prosecution alleged that Hamas had organised the two protests on the boats and had paid the defendants, neither of those allegations appears in the indictments,” Haaretz reported, adding that “when the participants in the protests were questioned, they claimed they were organised by the Committee for Breaking the Siege of Gaza and not Hamas.”

“The prosecutor said the interview Khaled Hassi gave to Al Jazeera could spark public opposition to the blockade and lead Israel to lift it, resulting in weapons flowing into Gaza, meaning that the interview should be viewed as endangering state security, an assertion that Bitan also rejected.”

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Publiée par Middle East Monitor sur Vendredi 7 septembre 2018

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