TRIAL OF DISSIDENT LEADS TO ARMY CLOSURE OF JEWISH COMMUNITY
KFAR SABA -- Police prosecutors in the trial of Rivka Meirchik, languishing for a fourth month in jail, have used the case to prove Arab land ownership of the Jewish community of Shvut Ami despite the ruling by Kfar Saba Magistrate Clara Rejiniano that the indictment does not include trespassing.
In the latest development, the army reportedly fenced off the area of Shvut Ami in mid-July and declared it a closed military zone. Eye witnesses told Israeljustice.com that signs outside the fence read "Private Property," and "Closed Military Zone." Eyewitnesses also said that the army had burnt all the furnishings of the house and the synagogue belonging to the Jewish residents.
Police prosecutor Nili Dayan brought witnesses during Meirchik's trial to prove that Shvut Ami belongs to Badria Amar, who testified that neither she nor her family have lived in the structure on the land for four decades. She also testfied that they had not tended the land, include olive and pomegranate trees, for more than 11 years.
Amar is the complainant against Meirchik, who was arrested by the police on April 2 in Shvut Ami. But Amar testified that she last visited the land in October 2007.
"She's [Amar] the complainant," Dayan said on July 9. "We're talking about land that is not registered. In order to prove trespassing, we need to prove ownership and the physical presence [of Amar] or not does not affect this. I don't want it to come to that [to a Supreme Court hearing on ownership]."
During the trial, the prosecution tried to prove Amar's ownership of the land with Jordanian maps dated to the early 1930's and Jordanian possession tax documents presented by an expert witness from the military prosecutor's office, Rinat Levine.
"I have no complaints [against Meirchik]," Amar said in cross-examination. "If there's a trial, why do I need complaints?"
The defense has said that the prosecution used the trial of Ms. Meirchik to set a precedent to indict Jews living in Shvut Ami for trespassing.
"They took this complainant [Amar] and tried to wrap her in this incident that she knew nothing about," Public Defender Aliza Kashkash, said. "All her complaints to the authorities were previous complaints [against other people]."
"Find a way to bring all these people to trial," Kashkash told Dayan.
Dayan responded that she was using Ms. Meirchik's trial to pave the way for multiple indictments.
"This is exactly the way," Dayan said.
Police have also charged Meirchik with assaulting a police officer and disturbing the police after officers ordered Meirchik and four other young women to leave Shvut Ami.
Police Commander Shmuel Hirshler testified that he announced to the girls that this was a closed military zone and that they were in violation of a military order. But Kashkash said that the order was invalid because it was dated Feb. 21 and the fact that it was not presented to the girls.
"At any stage, they never presented the order and there's a problem with this because of the date," Kashkash said. "So it [the eviction] was illegal."
The prosecution concurred that there were problems with the legality of the eviction order.
"That's why we didn't indict on violating the order," Dayan said.
With regard to the assault charges, Kashkash said that the police officers gave conflicting testimony as to where and how the alleged assault occurred.
Ms. Meirchik is also charged with refusing to cooperate with police identification procedures including fingerprinting and photographing.
"The defendant chose not to testify, to remain silent and to ignore the authority of the court for ideological reasons," Kashkash said. "This must be taken into account."
Ms. Meirchik, who refused to cooperate with police conditions for her release and is being held until the conclusion of judicial proceedings, has already spent close to four months in the Neve Tirza prison, most of it in solitary confinement.
The next hearing is scheduled for August 6.
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