Israel currently holds approximately 300 Palestinians without charge or trial — a practice known as administrative detention.
The human rights organization Amnesty International issued an urgent appeal today regarding the renewed administrative detention order against Palestinian writer Ahmad Qatamesh.
Last week I blogged that Israel had issued its third consecutive order to detain Qatamesh without charge or trial — a practice known as administrative detention.
The Palestinian writer and academic has been held without charge since 21 April 2011, when Israeli soldiers raided his family’s West Bank home, holding his family members hostage at gunpoint until Qatamesh, who was not home at the time, surrendered himself. Qatamesh was held by Israel for more than five years without charge or trial during the 1990s, causing him to miss important years of his young daughter’s life.
In its appeal today, Amnesty International says that the renewed detention order against Qatamesh will be reviewed by a military judge in the coming days, meaning that urgent action is crucial.
Amnesty also says that Qatamesh refused to enter the military court during a hearing on 5 March, stating his rejection of the military court process. Qatamesh’s wife and lawyer say that Qatamesh “has been interrogated for no more than a total of ten minutes” by Israeli authorities.
Israel’s strategy to “put pressure” on PFLP
The alert also states that it is Amnesty’s assessment that Qatamesh is a prisoner of conscience being held by Israel because of his political writing and mentorship of left-wing students and activists, some of whom may be associated with the leftist party Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
According to Amnesty, “As such, his detention may be part of the Israeli authorities’ strategy to put pressure on the PFLP organisation.”
The secretary general of the PFLP, Ahmad Saadat, is currently held in solitary confinement by Israel after he was kidnapped by Israeli forces from a Palestinian Authority prison near Jericho in the occupied West Bank in 2006 (Saadat was detained there for four years without being convicted of a crime). Saadat had been elected general secretary of the PFLP after Israel extrajudicially executed his predecessor, Abu Ali Mustafa, in his Ramallah home in 2001.
In an interview with The Electronic Intifada contributor Asa Winstanley last week, Mourad Jadallah of the Prisoner rights group Addameer noted that Israel had undertaken a campaign of mass arrests of PFLP-affiliated activists after Ahmad Saadat and other PFLP activists led a hunger strike in Israeli prisons last year.
Amnesty International’s full action alert follows:
URGENT ACTION - ACADEMIC RECEIVES THIRD DETENTION ORDER
Palestinian academic Ahmad Qatamesh received a new six-month administrative detention order on 1 March. He has been held without charge or trial since 21 April 2011.
Ahmad Qatamesh was given a third administrative detention order on 1 March, the day that his second administrative detention order was due to expire. At the judicial review of the order, which took place on 5 March 2012, the military prosecutor sought the confirmation of the order by the military judge. It is expected that the military judge will confirm the detention order in the coming days.
Ahmad Qatamesh, together with other administrative detainees at Ofer prison in the occupied West Bank, have declared that they do not recognize the legitimacy of the military courts and administrative detention procedures, and have refused to attend judicial hearings. Because the judicial review normally takes place in the presence of the detainee, the prosecution insisted that Ahmad Qatamesh be brought to the court room on 5 March 2012. He again reiterated his rejection of the military court process and immediately returned to his cell.
According to both his wife and his lawyer, Ahmad Qatamesh has been interrogated for no more than a total of 10 minutes by Israel Security Agency (ISA) officers, who alleged that he was a member of the political office of a leftist Palestinian party which has an armed wing: the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). While Ahmad Qatamesh was a political and intellectual supporter of the PFLP in the 1990s, he says he has not been involved with them for 13 years. To Amnesty International’s knowledge, he has never been involved with PFLP-affiliated armed groups or advocated violence. His latest work focuses on political solutions that put an end to the violent conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, which he calls a “nightmare”.
It is Amnesty International’s assessment that the reasons for Ahmad Qatamesh’s arrest and continued administrative detention are his peaceful expression, in his writing and teaching, of non-violent political views and the fact that he is considered a mentor for left-wing students and political activists, some of whom may be affiliated to the PFLP. As such, his detention may be part of the Israeli authorities’ strategy to put pressure on the PFLP organisation. Therefore, Amnesty International considers him to be a prisoner of conscience and is calling for his immediate and unconditional release.
Please write immediately in Hebrew or your own language: - Expressing concern that Ahmad Qatamesh is a prisoner of conscience, detained solely for the peaceful exercise of his right to freedom of expression, and calling for his immediate and unconditional release; - Calling on the authorities to end the use of administrative detention.
PLEASE SEND APPEALS BEFORE 17 APRIL 2012 TO:
Military Judge Advocate General Major General Avihai Mandelblit 6 David Elazar Street Hakirya, Tel Aviv, Israel Fax: +972 3 569 4526 Email: email@example.com Salutation: Dear Judge Advocate General
Commander of the IDF - West Bank
Major-General Avi Mizrahi GOC Central Command Military Post 01149 Battalion 877 Israel Defense Forces, Israel Fax: +972 2 530 5724 Salutation: Dear Major-General Avi Mizrahi
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defence Ehud Barak Ministry of Defence 37 Kaplan Street, Hakirya Tel Aviv 61909, Israel Fax: + 972 3 69 16940 / +972 3 691 7915 Salutation: Dear Minister
Also send copies to diplomatic representatives accredited to your country.