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Israel sentences Palestinian-French NGO worker to detention without charge or trial

Aug. 29, 2017 7:09 P.M. (Updated: Sept. 2, 2017 8:49 P.M.)
Addameer's field researcher Salah Hamouri detained by Israeli forces during raid on Aug. 23, 2017 (Credit: Addameer)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- An Israeli court sentenced Salah Hamouri, a human rights defender and field researcher for Palestinian prisoners' rights group Addameer, to six months of administrative detention -- imprisonment without charge or trial -- on Tuesday, in what Addameer said was “part of a systematic policy of disempowerment.”

According to Addameer’s statement, the court’s initial decision had been to place Hamouri under house arrest in al-Reineh, a Palestinian village in Israel, for 20 days. He would then be banned from entering Jerusalem or traveling abroad for three months.

The decision had also included a bail fee of 10,000 shekels ($2,800). However, when his family went to Israel’s Russian interrogation compound, where Hamouri has been held, to pay the bail they were told by Israeli officials that Hamouri would not be released.

Hamouri, 32, who holds dual Palestinian-French citizenship, was detained during an overnight raid on Wednesday from his home in the occupied East Jerusalem neighborhood of Kafr Aqab.

An Israeli police spokesperson told Ma'an at the time that he was "not familiar" with the case.

Hamouri was a former prisoner of Israel for seven years, and was released as part of the Wafa al-Ahrar, or Gilad Shalit prisoners exchange deal in 2011.

The East Jerusalem resident was banned from entering the occupied West Bank until Sept. 2016, and his wife Elsa Lefort is currently banned by Israeli authorities from entering the occupied Palestinian territory or Israel.

In an unusually high-profile case illustrating the difficulties Palestinians face to obtain -- and keep -- their East Jerusalem residency, Lefort was detained and deported by Israeli authorities in 2016 when she was six-and-a-half months pregnant.

Hamouri's most recent detention was “one in a list of many,” Addameer said in the statement, as Israel has “attempted to stifle the legitimate pursuit of Palestinian human rights and basic dignity.”

“For those who dare to speak up against this oppressive colonial regime, arbitrary detainment awaits,” the group added.

Addameer noted that the issue was not just the detention of Hamouri, but Israel’s “systematic policy of disempowerment.”

“The aim is to ensure that any work to supporting the Palestinian quest for self-determination is punished severely. The thinking goes that if enough are punished, and the weight is too much to bear, the rest will be dismayed and accept the status quo. They will be resigned to the fact that are part of a state structure that treats them as subjects, who can be imprisoned and stripped of the rights at will,” Addameer said.

Addameer noted that the group considers administrative detention, which allows Israeli authorities to imprison someone without disclosing any evidence against them, to be a form of “arbitrary detention” and “psychological torture.”

Palestinians could develop a variety of psychological disorders owing to the controversial policy, the group said, including long-term depression and chronic anxiety.

Rights groups and activists have long pointed out that Israel’s use of administrative detention has been used as a tool by Israel to detain Palestinians without justification. The policy is almost exclusively used against Palestinians.

Addameer added that Hamouri was “an example to us all” because he could “easily leave, live in France, and have a quiet life with his wife and child.” But, instead “he remains in the place of his birth and struggles for those who the occupation seeks to reduce from humans to subjects.”

Among the 6,128 Palestinians in Israeli prisons, 450 are administrative detainees, according to Addameer.
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