Six Palestinian Escapees Formally Indicted
The six recaptured Palestinian political prisoners who tunneled out of a high-security Israeli prison in Gilboa on September 5 have been formally indicted by Israel.
On Sunday, Mahmoud Al-Arda, Yaqoub Qader, Mohammad Al-Arda, Zakaria Zubeidi, Ayham Kamamji, and Munadel Nfaiaat were charged with escaping from the prison in northern Israel, and five others were accused of assisting them, a prosecutors’ statement said.
The indictment filed by the attorney of the Nazareth central court includes illegal fleeing from their confinement (charge of up to seven years in prison). The indictment didn’t include terror-related charges.
The detainees had been serving lengthy sentences, including life in jail. Four were arrested between 1996 and 2006 and had been convicted of carrying out attacks against the Israeli army and civilian targets. In one case, one detainee had been arrested without being charged with a crime under Israel’s administrative detention.
Some sources believe five of them could be part of the Islamic Jihad group and one of the armed branches of the Palestinian Authority’s Fatah faction.
Israeli treatment towards the inmates
According to the charge sheet, at the end of 2020, the prisoners began digging a tunnel under the sink of their prison cell’s toilet. One of the inmates, Mahmoud al-Ardah, said he used spoons, plates, and even the handle of a kettle to dig. The six were recaptured during an Israeli manhunt in September and have since launched an investigation into how they pulled off their escape.
A lawyer for several of the men previously told the prisoners were banned from accessing their lawyers under an order from the Israeli intelligence services. The lawyer also expressed that allegedly one of the Palestinians had been subjected to mental and physical torture by Israeli interrogators.
On Thursday 30, the Israel Security Agency, Shin Bet, handed over the six Palestinians to the Israel Prison Service, which placed them in solitary confinement at different prisons: Zakaria Zubeidi at the Eshel prison in Be’er Sheva; Mohammad Al-Arda at Shikma prison in Ashkelon; Mahmoud Al-Arda and Munadel Infaiaat at Ayalon prison in Ramla; Yaakov Kadri at Rimonim prison in Even Yehuda; and Ayham Nayef Kamamji at Kedar prison in Be’er Sheva.
It is reported that Israel currently holds 4,650 Palestinians across different facilities. At least 200 are children, while 520 are administrative detainees, according to figures published by rights group Addameer. This means that more than 500 Palestinians are being held without charge or trial, although this is technically prohibited under international law.