Tuesday, March 18, 2008

FREE TZIVIA SARIEL!!!!! reprinted from Israeljustice.com



Date added: 3/15/2008

JERUSALEM -- In what was deemed an unprecedented move, an 18 year-old Jewish girl was sent to a rabbinical court in an attempt to convince her to cooperate with the secular Israeli judiciary in a criminal case.
Tzvia Sariel was taken to a hearing before a Jerusalem Rabbinical Court which declared her to be innocent of charges of assaulting an Arab and ordered her to be immediately freed. At that point, however, prison guards spirited Tzvia to a waiting van and she was returned to prison to continue her fourth month in jail.
"This was totally unexpected," Rabbi Chaim Richmond, one of four rabbinical judges said. "In our presence, the prison warden made a call and they were expected to take Tzvia back to a civil court to be released."
The hearing on March 14 was marked by uncertainty over legal procedure. Attorneys did not understand what role was given to the rabbinical court in a criminal case and whether the rabbis were granted any authority over the civil court judge who approved the procedure. Rabbinical courts are authorized to hear cases that concern marriage and divorce.
"There is a question of authorities," Shmuel Meidad, head of the Honeinu legal aid organization said.
Tzvia has been in prison for over three months on charges of assaulting Arabs brought by the army to the Jewish community of Elon Moreh in December 2007.
In a hearing on March 5, Tzvia was sent to jail for another month despite the chief prosecution witnesses testifying that she had not participated in any assault and requesting to withdraw their complaints against her.
Human rights activists assess that Tzvia remains in prison solely because she refuses to cooperate with authorities. She has refused to identify herself, retain an attorney or submit a defense.
On March 14, Netanya Magistrates Court Judge Smadar Kolander Abramovitch issued a decision that allowed prison authorities to bring Tzvia, manacled in handcuffs and leg irons, to appear before the Rabbinical Court for Matters of the People and the State, in what was deemed an attempt to have rabbis influence Tzvia to cooperate with civil authorities.
Instead, the rabbis held a hearing on her case and issued a decision advocating her immediate release.
"Every day and every hour that Tzvia Sariel spends behind bars is a wrongdoing to this girl," Rabbi Yisrael Ariel, head of the court, said "Justice demands to release her immediately. It is a serious stain on the judiciary system in Israel. According to the Torah law of Israel, we are demanding her immediate release without conditions and to erase the indictment."
Honeinu later issued a statement adding that "the rabbinical court did not limit the refusal to recognize the authority of the civil court and that it is justified and dependant on the stamina of the young girl and her ability to withstand all the hardships in prison."
After the decision was announced, the rabbis, wrapped in tallitot or prayer shawls, immediately stood and recited the special prayers accepting the justice of the Almighty. Everyone in the courtroom followed in a loud chant to say the words, "Hear O' Israel, the L-rd is our G-d, the L-rd is One," despite an attempt by prison guards to prevent supporters, including Ruth Sariel, Tzvia's mother, from entering the hearing. Flustered, Prison Warden Hila Boris left to call authorities, she later said, to ask authorities about Tzvia's release.
"I've never seen anything like this in my whole life," one of the accompanying prison guards said.
In the ensuing chaos, Boris removed Tzvia's leg irons and said that she was ordered to take her back to Ramle, the city where the Neve Tirza womens' prison is located. After a copy of the rabbinical's courts decision was faxed to prison authorities, attorney Hillel Weiss attained a verbal confirmation that Tzvia would be taken directly to the Ramle Magistrates Court where she would be summarily released before the Sabbath.
"I've been ordered to take her back to Ramle but she'll be home before Shabbat," Boris said.
Instead, she was returned to solitary confinement, the fourth time she has been harshly punished during her incarceration, and was not allowed to call home.
"She's back in solitary because we haven't heard from her," Ruth Sariel said. "The redemption does not come immediately."

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