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Report: Israel detaining Palestinian minors without charge over Facebook posts

Oct. 17, 2016 10:11 P.M. (Updated: Oct. 22, 2016 9:15 P.M.)
(File)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- At least five Palestinian minors have been imprisoned by Israel without being charged in recent months, after sharing social media posts that Israeli authorities alleged amounted to “incitement” to commit violence, according to a report released Monday by rights group Defense for Children International - Palestine (DCIP).

Among them was a 17-year-old identified as Ahmad H., who told DCIP that he was interrogated twice in the first week of August for one and three hours, during which time he had neither a parent present nor access to legal counsel.

When Ahmad told his interrogator that he had deleted everything on his Facebook account after spending 10 days in an Israeli prison in April, the Israeli officer accused the teen of “obstructing the interrogation, claiming that I had asked someone to delete the photos, but I denied it,” Ahmad said.

Days later, Israeli authorities sentenced him to six months in administrative detention, Israel’s widely condemned policy of internment without trial or charge based on undisclosed evidence for indefinitely renewable periods of up to six months.

Fadi J., a 16-year-old interviewed by DCIP, was released on Sept. 2 after spending almost seven months in Israeli jail -- without any charges being brought against him -- for posting a picture of a rifle on his Facebook page.

Fadi told DCIP that “(The interrogator) showed me a picture of an AK-47 rifle that he downloaded from my Facebook page, but I told him it was just a picture,” after which the Israeli officer accused the boy of being a security threat and plotting to carry out an attack.

“Israeli authorities must immediately stop using administrative detention against Palestinian minors,” the report quoted Brad Parker, attorney and international advocacy officer at DCIP, as saying. “Inability to file charges against children due to lack of evidence should never be grounds for holding them indefinitely without charge or trial.”

The report came amid a crackdown by Israel on Palestinian journalists, media organizations, and ordinary citizens for their social media activity, particularly since a wave of unrest began last October.

While the Israeli authorities have said those targeted were responsible for incitement against Israel, rights groups argue the crackdown is a blatant violation of speech freedoms.

Last month, Facebook agreed to work with the Israeli government to “minimize online anti-Semitic incitement” -- the state of Israel’s latest effort to pressure the social media site to coordinate to remove content considered to promote “terrorism.”

Israel had previously blamed Facebook outright for the perceived proliferation of incitement, with Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan reportedly saying that Facebook chairman and cofounder Mark Zuckerberg had “blood on his hands” for not adequately cooperating with Israel to remove content.

Since the unrest began last year, Israel has also dramatically increased its detention of Palestinian children; according to DCIP, Israel has used administrative detention against 19 Palestinian minors since October 2015. Only two were charged and handed actual prison sentences, and six still remained in detention without being charged.

“Prior to October, Israel had not held a Palestinian child from the West Bank under administrative detention since December 2011,” the group has said.

Meanwhile, the Palestinian Committee of Prisoners’ Affairs said in a September report that at least 1,000 Palestinian minors between the ages of 11 and 18 had been detained by Israel since January, a number of whom reported being abused and tortured while in detention.

According to prisoners’ rights groups Addameer, a total of 340 Palestinian minors are currently being incarcerated by Israel as political prisoners.

Interrogations of Palestinian children can last up to 90 days according to Addameer, while in addition to being beaten and threatened, cases of sexual assault and placement in solitary confinement to elicit confessions are also reported, while confession documents they are forced to sign are in Hebrew -- a language most Palestinian children do not speak.
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