An Israeli court ordered the immediate, unconditional release of Palestinian human rights defender Nasser Nawaja on Thursday, but as of Friday morning he remained in custody. Lawyers are filing a motion against Israeli police for contempt of court.
Nawaja, who works as a field researcher for B’Tselem in the occupied West Bank, was picked up as part of an intensifying crackdown on Israeli human rights groups.
Meanwhile, a judge lifted the gag order preventing media subject to Israeli censorship from reporting that police had earlier arrested Ezra Nawi and filmmaker Guy Butavia, activists with the Palestinian-Jewish group Ta’ayush.
Settler smear campaign
This came as a video emerged of Butavia being transported in a courthouse by Israeli police.
Butavia can be heard challenging his detention as politically motivated.
Nawi, Butavia and Nawaja were arrested after Israeli television aired a video filmed by a right-wing group funded by the Shomron Settlement Committee, a government-funded group of settlers in the occupied West Bank.
Two agents for Ad Kan infiltrated Ta’ayush and concoted a fake land deal in which Nawaja’s family land was supposedly sold to Israeli settlers.
They used this set-up to record Nawi allegedly making incriminating statements that anyone selling land to settlers would suffer retaliation from the Palestinian Authority.
Ad Kan was founded by Aviram Zeevi, a former official of the internal security ministry, together with current and former army officers, to attack Israeli human rights organizations.
Ta’ayush was likely targeted by the settler-backed group because it defends the rights of Palestinian farmers in the South Hebron Hills area of the West Bank.
In the video above, which shows Butavia being transported while in police custody, the activist alleges that Israeli police are working hand in hand with Ad Kan.
“The people sitting across from me [during interrogation] had Ad Kan forms in their hands,” Butavia states. “They simply received all the questions and the entire interrogation, ready made, from Ad Kan. The Israeli police is working for the Shomron Settlement Committee.”
“This is entirely a political arrest. It’s whole purpose is to undermine our activity for human rights in the [occupied] territories and against the crimes and criminals of the occupation,” Butavia states. “They won’t be able to break us.”
The video of Butavia was filmed by Oren Ziv of ActiveStills.
B’Tselem released this brief video condemning what it called the “settler smear campaign” by Ad Kan and highlighting the forced displacement of Palestinians in the South Hebron Hills that Israel seeks to cover up: