Arab-American Reported Freed, Two Others Seeing Lawyers
JERUSALEM (AP) _ One of three Arab-Americans arrested by the Israeli military was freed today, and an official said all three suspects were being permitted to consult lawyers.
The statement about legal counsel followed a protest by the United States over a delay in consular access and Israel’s treatment of the men. All three were arrested in late January over their alleged links to a Muslim fundamentalist group committed to Israel’s destruction.
A military court ordered Mohammed Haja, a naturalized U.S. citizen who lived near the West Bank town of Ramallah, released after police said they had finished questioning him, the army said.
Officials had said earlier that Haja was suspected of transferring weapons to the militant Muslim movement Hamas.
Gad Ben-Ari, the spokesman for Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, said Haja and suspects Mohammed Salah, 39, and Mohammed Jarad, 36, both of the Chicago area, were being allowed legal counsel.
Israeli officials said earlier that Jarad and Salah, who were arrested Jan. 25, both signed confessions before seeing either a lawyer or a U.S. consular official.
Salah met with a lawyer last week, Haja saw an attorney Wednesday and Jarad will meet with a lawyer by the end of the week, Ben-Ari said.
Salah and Jarad are being held under military law - which applies to Palestinians in the occupied territories - meaning they are not afforded immediate access to lawyers. The law allows military authorities to hold suspects up to 18 days before bringing them before a military judge.
The two are suspected of trying to rebuild Hamas in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip after hundreds of its alleged leaders were deported to Lebanon in mid-December, according to security officials.
Jarad was born in Ramallah in the occupied West Bank and Salah in Jerusalem, but both have lived in the United States for at least 20 years and are naturalized U.S. citizens.
Their families and friends said they were active in their mosques, but insist neither was a political activist.
Israel said it immediately notified the U.S. consulate of the men’s arrests, but it only publicized the detentions five days later, after U.S. Sen. Paul Simon, D-Ill. inquired about the men.
When their arrests were made public, a security official who briefed reporters accused the men of trying to transfer hundreds of thousands of dollars to Hamas in an effort to rebuild the radical organization. The official spoke on the basis of anonymity.
A military judge extended the detention of Salah and Jarad by two weeks last week, but they have not yet been charged with any crime.
The army has said the arrests of the two men led to the capture of 40 Hamas activists in the occupied territories.