Last Updated: Sun Oct 17, 2010 12:34 pm (KSA) 09:34 am (GMT)

Israeli Cabinet passes loyalty bill, Arabs angry

The new bill to compel all new citizens to swear allegiance to Israel as "a Jewish and democratic state"
The new bill to compel all new citizens to swear allegiance to Israel as "a Jewish and democratic state"

The Israeli Cabinet on Sunday approved a controversial bill which would compel all new citizens to swear allegiance to Israel as "a Jewish and democratic state," a government statement said.

The statement, from the office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said the proposal was carried by 22 votes in favor to eight against.

The language has triggered charges of racism from Arab lawmakers who see it as undermining the rights of the country's Arab minority.

 Al-Qosi is no longer housed with detainees held solely as a function of the law of war 
Pentagon spokeswoman Maj. Tanya Bradsher

“As has been the practice with previous detainees convicted by a Military Commission and serving punitive sentences, al-Qosi is no longer housed with detainees held solely as a function of the law of war,” said Pentagon spokeswoman Maj. Tanya Bradsher.

A large number of the facility's 172 detainees live in communal settings where they can eat, pray and exercise collectively. Al-Qosi had pleaded guilty to war crimes in return for a secret sentence of two years after which he would be returned to his native Sudan. Part of the sentence was a recommendation that he live with the other detainees, and not with the other convicted war criminal.

But the judge in the case, Air Force Lt. Col. Nancy Paul, encountered objections from the Military when she asked the camp commander to implement court recommendations. Pentagon rules and the Geneva conventions require that convicted criminals should be isolated from the rest of the detainee population.

“Consistent with the principles of the Third Geneva Convention (1949), individuals detained under the Law of War only as a security measure should not be subjected to a penal environment or comingled with prisoners punitively incarcerated as a consequence of a criminal conviction,” Bradsher added.

There is currently only one convicted prisoner in Guantanamo, Ali Bahlul, who was found guilty of war crimes and sentenced to life in prison in 2008 after he failed to mount a defense. Al Qosi's lawyers had argued that living in isolation or with Bahlul would not be favorable conditions for their client.

Anticipating such issues, the military had been asked in 2008 to plan how to handle convicts at Guantanamo, but this has not yet been done. Al-Qosi was left in camp 4 as a result of a 60-day sentence deferment period that expired on Sunday and that was requested by the Convening Authority and in anticipation of a possible review of Pentagon rules

Moving al-Qosi does not directly breach the plea agreement but undermines recommendations of the Convening Authority requiring communal living for Al-Qosi.

Isolating Al-Qosi is likely to have a chilling effect on lawyers of other accused detainees who might be trying to seek plea deals with the government in exchange for lighter sentences under improved collective living conditions for their clients. Sources tell Al Arabiya that al-Qosi will not be in complete isolation, though it has not yet been made clear how socialization will be implemented or if he will be allowed to mingle with other detainees during certain hours of the day.

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