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Friday, December 23, 2011

AG closes case against Israeli participants of 2010 Gaza flotilla

  • Published 16:30 22.12.11 Latest update 16:30 22.12.11

Decision means case closed against Israeli Arab lawmaker Hanin Zuabi, who was severely criticized for her participation in Turkey-sponsored flotilla.

By Tomer Zarchin Tags: Gaza flotilla

Israel will not pursue criminal charges against Israeli participants in the 2010 Gaza-bound aid flotilla, Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein said in a statement on Thursday.

The decision will have an immediate effect on Israeli Arab lawmaker Hanin Zuabi, who was severely criticized for her participation in flotilla, which was eventually raided by Israel Defense Forces. Nine Turkish nationals were killed in the incident.

Hanin Zuabi flotilla - Tomer Neuberg Hanin Zuabן (L) and and IDF soldier on board the Gaza flotilla, May 31, 2010.

A Justice Ministry statement released on Thursday indicated that the AG ruled against an investigation of Israeli citizens in the flotilla, saying that "upon weighing the entire body of evidence and the relevant legal issues, the Attorney General decided to close the case over significant evidence-based and legal difficulties."

Those difficulties, the statement added, had to do both with "proving the basis of the office as well as legal questions regarding the jurisdiction of Israeli law on crimes committed abroad."

The statement also indicated that the decision only applies to Israeli citizens who partook in the May 2010 flotilla, and does "affect investigations of similar events in the future, if those occur."

Earlier this year, the Knesset Ethics Committee barred MK = Zuabi (Balad ) from all plenum and committee sessions during the final two weeks of the Knesset's current session, as a punishment for her participation in the Turkish-sponsored flotilla to Gaza. 

Zuabi can still vote, but she will not be able to participate in the debates.

Gaza flotilla Israeli Arab MKs Hanin Zuabi and Jamal Zahalka hold a press
conference in Nazareth on Tuesday June 1, 2010.
Photo by: Tomer Neuberg

The MK dismissed legitimacy of the committee's decision, declaring that the question of "whether my actions were legal or not will be determined by the court, and not by a committee comprising a rightist majority."

In the wake of Zuabi's participation in the flotilla, the Knesset voted last year to revoke three of her key privileges as Knesset member: her diplomatic passport, entitlement to financial assistance for legal assistance and the right to visit countries with which Israel does not have diplomatic ties.

Zuabi in turn petitioned the High Court of Justice in order to have her privileges returned, claiming that the aim of stripping her rights was to limit MKs' "political activities, especially those of minority representatives." The petition also accused the Knesset of overstepping their authority.

In response to the AG's announcement, Yisrael Beiteinu's Anastassia Michaeli said: "I would like to say I'm shocked by the statement but in reality it just provides more proof of everything I have said until now. I won't add another word on it since the decisions speaks for itself."

Regarding Zuabi, Michaeli said that she "cannot complain of her, since she was doing her job as a loyal enemy of Israel," adding that the decision to drop the case against the Israeli flotilla participants represented "a boost and reward for terror in Israel and around the globe."

The decision "is a legal sign of approval to terror squads who are now back up by the Israeli attorney general himself."

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