Rivka Meirchik Sent To Jail For Another Month
Rivka Meirchik is the second young Jewish woman this year to languish in the Neve Tirza prison without trial after refusing to recognize the authority of the court and to cooperate with the prosecution.
Earlier this year, 18 year-old Tzvia Sariel spent over four months in Neve Tirza until she was released in March and all charges against her were dropped. [In January, seven teenage Jewish girls were released after being held for three weeks in Neve Tirza without trial. The 13 to 14 year-olds were also arrested for Jewish settlement activities and also refused to cooperate with authorities.]
On May 22, an Israeli judge sent Meirchik back to jail for another month after deeming her refusal to cooperate with authorities an ideological crime.
Rivka Meirchik, 29, an anti-government demonstrator who participated in Jewish settlement and was arrested almost two months ago, is being held until the end of judicial proceedings. She has refused to cooperate with authorities, including paying a release bond and agreeing to restrictive conditions.
"[For Meirchik] it's ideological," Kfar Saba Magistrate Clara Rejiniano said. "The law allows me to keep a person nine months. These are legal decisions which we must respect." Rejiniano, who ordered Meirchik remanded in custody until the end of judicial proceedings on April 21, scheduled the next hearing for June 19.
Ms. Meirchik was arrested on April 2 in the Jewish community of Shvut Ami after police ordered all Jews evacuated from the area. [Shvut Ami was one of the Jewish communities established after the expulsion of 10,000 Jews from Gush Katif and the northern Shomron in August 2005.]
Merichik was charged with trespassing, assaulting a police office and disobeying military orders after the area was proclaimed a closed military zone. For her part, she said that she was beaten by police.
She has since been held in the Neve Tirza prison after she refused to recognize the authority of the court, refused to cooperate with police prosecutor Shir Laufer and refused to accept court-imposed conditions for her release.
Meirchik, who appeared pail and frail, has also refused to be handcuffed or shackled with leg-irons with the result that prison authorities have refused to allow her out of her solitary confinement cell and have deprived her of phone and visitation rights. However, she is brought to court appearances manacled and on April 14, Kfar Saba Magistrate Nava Bechor ordered her held in leg-irons and handcuffs throughout the hearing. [Bechor is the same judge who ordered Tzvia Tsariel held for a fourth month in jail prior to her trial.]
During the May 22 hearing Rejiniano said she had no authority to release Meirchik, despite the prosecution's insistence on calling an expert witness to testify on the land claims by Arabs to Shvut Ami, located near the Jewish community of Kedumim, to prove the trespass offense.
Defense attorney Aviad Visoly asked that Meirchik be released from hearings as the cross-examination of the witness would be lengthy and Meirchik had already spent close to two months in prison.
"I reiterate my request to free the defendant from the hearing and all other hearings," Visoly said, "in view of the fact that the prosecution witness has brought 10 pages on testimony and will be questioned on every paragraph."
Attorney Rinat Levine from the military prosecutor's office presented the court with Jordanian maps and tax possession registration documents from 1933 and 1936 as evidence that the land is owned by Arabs.
The judge, visibly annoyed by prosecutor Nili Dayan for bringing the witness, nevertheless castigated Visoli for a political cross-examination.
"Who has sovereignty in Judea and Samaria according to international law?" Visoli asked Levine. "I will prove that according to international law that Israeli law is the law in Judea and Samaria."
The judge refused to allow Levine to answer the question.
"This is political," Rejiniano said as she addressed the prosecutor. "Do you understand what you have brought to this trial for an offense of trespassing?"
A second witness, border policeman Nasid Sayad, testified that Meirchik had assaulted him and resisted arrest while she was sitting on the ground.
Sayad, who said he bent down to touch Meirchik's bag, first said Meirchik bit him when she was sitting down and later testified that Meirchik also slapped him.
Visoli asked Sayad to demonstrate how a police office, over one meter tall, with a second police officer at his side, was slapped and bitten by a very slight young woman in a sitting position. Sayad refused to cooperate
with the defense's request.
Visoli said he will appeal to the Supreme Court to have Meirchik released immediately. He said that it isn't a crime under Israeli law not to recognize the authority of the court.
"It's shocking," Visoli said. "Her incarceration is illegal and so is keeping her in custody until the end of proceedings."
The major Israeli media, particularly the state-operated radio and television, did not mention a word of this travesty of justice. So, we must turn to you, lovers of Israel , who were so effective in the case of Tzvia
Sariel and who, thanks to your efforts was released from jail, and ask that you act to help defend Jewish rights in Israel .
As a first step, we request that you telephone -- rather than e-mail -- the Israeli Embassy or the Israeli consulate nearest you and demand to know why Rivka is still in prison. The embassy's phone number is 202-364-5500.
Stress, that as an American citizen, you can ask the State Department to investigate what you feel is clearly a human rights violation.
Now, we are asking you to call your member of Congress and raise the issue of Rivka Meirchik. We also ask you to call the State Department's Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor and inform them of Rivka and
demand an investigation. Tell the department officer you have also raised Rivka's case with your member of Congress. The State Department's main numbers are 202-647-4000 or 1-800-877-8339.
The Olmert government, with an approval rating of near zero, has refused any accountability to the Israeli people and fears only the Bush administration. Unless we act now, there will be many more Rivkas in jail.
If you agree with this, please act quickly. What could be more important than winning the release of a Jewish woman imprisoned for loving her country and people?
With Love of Israel,