A law proposed by Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan that would enable the prisons system to differentiate between criminals and terrorists can move ahead to legislation, State Attorney Avichai Mandelblit said in a memo to Erdan Tuesday.
In the memo, Hadashot News reported, Mandelblit said that the law could be defended before the High Court, and fulfills the constitutional requirements that ensure prisoner rights.
One of the reasons for the law, the report said, was concern that the state would be forced to release large numbers of terrorists. A High Court decision from several year ago is the impetus behind a measure the Knesset is set to vote on in the coming days that would cut the sentence of criminals and terrorists who were sentenced to terms of up to 20 years.
The 2017 High Court decision, a response to a lawsuit on prison overcrowding, states that in order to preserve human dignity and comply with international standards, each prisoner needs to have 4.5 square meters of “personal space.”
Speaking to Yisrael Hayom, a Prisons Service official said that under those conditions, “each 10 by 22 meter cell, the standard size cells in Israeli prisons, will be able to house just five beds, instead of the ten we have today. That means we will double the number of cells, over 8,000 beds that need to be housed.” The ruling gave the state until the end of 2018 to comply. The law could affect as many as 1,000 terrorists and criminals, according to the Service.
The possibility of the release of terrorists has angered many families who have lost loved ones to terror attacks. Last week, 93 families who have had loved ones killed and injured by terrorists sent a letter to Erdan demanding that the government not release terrorists under the law. Releasing the terrorists, the families say in the letter, “will be a declaration of war. We will do everything in our power to prevent this. If this law is passed, it will be a major fall on the slippery slope that will lead to the release of terrorists with blood on their hands. They will return to their old ways and continue to murder Israelis. We demand brave and honest activities against terror. For us, this would be a declaration of a third world war against us,” the letter said.
Erdan’s proposal would allow the Prisons Service to differentiate between criminal and terrorist inmates when deciding who to release. The Minister expressed satisfaction with Mandelblit’s report, saying that “these horrible terrorists must pay the full price for their crimes. I demanded that an exception be made in their case, and I am happy that the state attorney backs my stance.”
Meanwhile, the Knesset Interior Committee is set to meet Tuesday to discuss other proposals of Erdan’s, which would significantly make harsher the conditions for terrorists in Israeli prisons. Among the proposals: sharply cutting the number of relatives’ visits a terrorist can have, the frequency of those visits, and the number of family members who will be able to visit; an end to a policy that kept terrorists from the various organizations (Hamas, Fatah, etc.) in the same cells or blocs with others from those same groups; an end to the purchase of meat, fish, fruit and vegetables from outside the prison (usually brought in by relatives); an end to allowing terrorist prisoners to prepare their own meals; limiting entertainment options for terrorist prisoners; and eliminating the position of “section spokesperson,” a semi-official position in which specific prisoners would liaise with authorities on behalf of the other prisoners in their section.