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Israel: Sentencing of Citizen Who Entered Syria to Join Rebels

(Apr. 6, 2015) On March 23, 2015 Israel’s Kfar-Saba circuit court sentenced a defendant convicted of the offenses of infiltrating a hostile state (Syria) and of negligently causing “the delivery of information likely to benefit the enemy” to imprisonment for a period of 11 months and to additional periods of probation for each offense. The defendant will be subject to supervision by the Probation Service during the probationary periods following his release. The defendant’s sentence is much lower than that prescribed under the law for committing these offenses. (Crim (Kfar-Saba) 20732-01-15 State of Israel v. Yusuf Nassralla, Takdin Legal Database (by subscription) (in Hebrew).)

The offenses for which the defendant was convicted, based on a plea bargain, were unlawful infiltration, punishable under section 2A of the Prevention of Infiltration (Offenses and Jurisdiction) Law, 5714-1954 (8 LAWS OF THE STATE OF ISRAEL (LSI) 133, as amended (an up-to-date text is available in the Nevo Legal Database (by subscription) (in Hebrew)) and negligent provision of information that may benefit the enemy, punishable under section 111 of the Penal Law, 5737-1977 (LSI (Special Volume), as amended (an up-to-date text is available in Nevo Legal Database)). The penalties prescribed for committing these offenses are imprisonment for periods of four years and three years, respectively.

According to the indictment, the defendant decided to leave Israel via Jordan and travel on to Syria to assist Syrian anti-government rebels. Two days after infiltrating into Syria, however, he was captured by Syrian forces and detained by them for eight months under difficult physical conditions. While in captivity, he was repeatedly tortured and interrogated. Among other actions, he provided Syrian forces with information on the location of an Israeli base and the method of entry from Israeli territory to areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. After being released he returned to Israel. (Crim (Kfar-Saba) 20732-01-15 State of Israel v. Yusuf Nassralla, supra.)

Judge Merav Greenberg acknowledged the seriousness of the defendant’s actions and the need to deter other would-be foreign fighters but nevertheless decided to recognize mitigating circumstances in the case, including the defendant’s unstable mental state, the fact that he was not motivated by a clear anti-Israeli ideology, and the long period of captivity in Syria in which he was subjected to inhumane treatment. (Id.)