NEWS

Israel to Vote on Detention Law Extension for Security Suspects

By Matthew Harwood

Israel's law committee has voted to bring before the Knesset legislation to extend the state's power to detain security suspects for longer periods of time with minimal judicial oversight, reports The Jerusalem Post.

Only five members of the Knesset Law Committee were on hand on Wednesday to approve for final reading the extension of what was once highly controversial legislation granting the state far-reaching detention powers over security suspects.

The bill, calling to extend the provisional legislation for 18 months, was passed by a vote of four to one.

The legislation grants the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) authority to deny security suspects access to judges and lawyers, far exceeding the powers granted to police in the case of "regular" criminals.

If the extension passes, the state will continue to have the power to detain suspects for 96 hours before bringing them before a judge. If the judge decides to extend the suspect's remand, the next time the suspect will be brought before a judge will not be for another 16 days. Any remand hearings that occur between the first day of detention and the 20th can be held without the suspect present.

If the judge decides to extend detention past the 20th day, the suspect does not have to be present for any further remand hearings until 15 days later.The law also allows suspects to be held for 50 days before they are allowed legal counsel.

The Post reports there wasn't much opposition to the bill with Acting Committee Chairman of the Law Committee Yitzhak Levy saying the bill was a small evil necessary to combat the greater evil of terrorism. However, Israel's Supreme Court is holding hearings to consider whether the legislation violates human rights and should be scuttled.

The temporary law began June 29, 2006, and is set to expire on December 28.

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