U.S. Peace Activist Remains in Detention
U.S. Peace Activist Remains in Detention After Hearing
State of Israel refuses to allow defense to view “secret evidence”
[Tel Aviv] American peace activist Ann Petter who has been detained for 14 days at Ben Gurion airport, appeared today before Judge Oded Mudrik at Tel Aviv District Court. Petter was charged with being a security threat to the State of Israel. Judge Mudrik postponed the decision on Petter’s case until Thursday, July 8, 2004 at 11:30 a.m. in Tel Aviv District Court. Petter is a 44-year old graphic designer from New York who planned to attend a nonviolent peace march organized by the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Judge Mudrik refused to release Petter from detention while the decision is pending.
Petter arrived in Israel with a video camera; she intended to document the work of Palestinian, Israeli, and international peace activists, one of whom is 79-year old Holocaust survivor, Hedy Epstein. Petter’s attorneys, Yael Berda and Shamai Leibovitz, stated that with these intentions, Petter does not pose a security threat to the State of Israel as alleged by the prosecution, but rather poses only a public relations threat. Furthermore, the defense asserted that people must not be denied entry into Israel on the basis of their political beliefs. People who are suspected of having any affiliation with Palestinians are routinely interrogated at Ben Gurion airport regarding their political opinions and affiliations.
The prosecution sought to submit secret evidence on behalf of the State of Israel detailing Petter’s participation in activities that allegedly prove her affiliation with terrorist organizations. Petter’s attorneys objected to the submission of such evidence based on the fact that it could not be reviewed by the defendant or her attorneys.
In her personal statement to the court, Petter stated: “I hope you will reconsider the decision to not allow me into the country. I believe it is important for me to be here because of the close relationship between Israel and America. I am a member of many peace organizations in the United States. I believe the International Solidarity Movement prevents violence and perpetuates non-violence along the principles of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King. ISM volunteers also serve as witnesses with their eyes and cameras. I think it is an important role for civilians to play.”
The Israeli Supreme Court ruled on June 30 that “[the route of the security fence] harms the local inhabitants in a severe and acute way while violating [Palestinians’] rights under humanitarian and international law." Petter's attorneys argued that this ruling lends further legitimacy to activities that expose the adverse effect of the Separation Fence on Palestinian lives. The International Court of Justice (ICJ) at The Hague will announce its decision on the legality of the Separation Fence on Friday, July 9. Israeli foreign minister Silvan Shalom said that Israel would not accept “external involvement” by the ICJ.