Jewish extremist jailed without trial in Israel

Israel has jailed a Jewish extremist for six months without charges or a trial, deploying a contentious measure typically used against Palestinians suspected of staging attacks.

Meir Ettinger, the head of a Jewish extremist group, laughs outside court in Nazareth Illit after his arrest. Picture: Getty Images
Meir Ettinger, the head of a Jewish extremist group, laughs outside court in Nazareth Illit after his arrest. Picture: Getty Images

This was the first time the measure, known as administrative detention, has been used against an Israeli and it is part of a crackdown that began after a pair of deadly attacks last week.

Defence minister Moshe Yaalon signed an order that jailed extremist Mordechai Meyer, from the West Bank settlement of Maaleh Adumim, for six months.

A statement from Mr Yaalon’s office said Meyer, 18, was being held over “his involvement in violent activities and recent terror attacks”.

The ministry would not elaborate but Israel’s internal security agency, Shin Bet, said Meyer had been among five people arrested in connection with an arson attack on a church in northern Israel in June, although he was not indicted.

He was also suspected of links to attacks on another church in Jerusalem, as well as on Palestinian property, Shin Bet said, adding that he had previously been banned from the West Bank and Jerusalem.

The crackdown on Jewish militancy follows two deadly attacks last week.

On Friday, suspected Jewish extremists torched a West Bank home, an arson attack in which a Palestinian toddler was burned to death and his parents and four-year-old brother were seriously wounded.

Shin Bet declined to comment on whether Meyer was connected to that attack.

A day earlier, an ultra-Orthodox man stabbed six people at Jerusalem’s Gay Pride parade, and one of them – a 16-year-old girl – died of her wounds.

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has pledged “zero tolerance” for Jewish terrorism and the state has authorised a series of steps, including administrative detention, in an attempt to help stamp out the trend.

Authorities also arrested Meir Ettinger, a high-profile activist accused of leading a new movement of defiant settler youths who embrace violence and reject the rule of law.

Ettinger, 23, was not being held under administrative detention but was arrested for “involvement in an extremist Jewish organisation”. Shin Bet would not say whether Ettinger was a suspect in the West Bank arson attack.

Administrative detention is typically used against Palestinians, who can be held for months or even years without trial or charge. The measure is rarely applied against Israelis. Israel has defended the administrative detention of Palestinians as a necessary tool for preventing militant attacks.

Meyer’s lawyer, Adi Keidar, told Israeli Army Radio there were “less drastic steps” Israel could have taken to pursue an investigation against his client.

He said he opposed the measure, for Israelis and Palestinians. “Legally speaking, you can’t take a person and put him in jail, without having evidence against him,” he said