[Ppnews] In prison, who knows why?

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Thu Mar 20 12:08:35 EDT 2008

In prison, who knows why?

Mohammed Omer, The Electronic Intifada, 19 March 2008

GAZA CITY, 19 March (IPS) - You would think the baby boy named Yousef 
has his life ahead of him. But who knows, with a child born to 
Palestinian parents from Gaza. What's more, Yousef was born in an 
Israeli prison.

He is the only one of Fatima al-Zeq's nine children who is with her 
for that reason -- she was arrested nine months ago. But these days 
the baby is not with her. He developed stomach pain, began to vomit, 
and has been transferred to a hospital inside Hasharon prison in Israel.

Fatima has written to human rights organizations in Gaza asking for 
their help in seeing that the baby is looked after, something she 
cannot do herself.

Her other children do not know why mother is in prison; the Israelis 
haven't told them or the Palestinian authorities. And they declined 
to tell IPS. If anything, the Israelis say the arrests are for 
"security reasons."

According to a Palestinian source, she was arrested because Israeli 
authorities suspected she would carry out an attack in Israel, 
although no explosives were found on her. Another source suggests 
that she was arrested because she is a relative of an Islamic Jihad leader.

Fatima had gone to an Israeli hospital to seek treatment, and had a 
permit for it, her family members say. But at the checkpoint they 
arrested her and threw her in jail. She joins thousands of 
Palestinians inside Israeli jails. Prisoners' families are not always 
told why they are in prison, whether they have been charged, or 
convicted, and when, if ever, they will be released.

Seven-year-old Jumana Abu Jazar knows all about this. "My mother 
died, and I have no brothers and sisters," she says, looping the 
string of a picture frame around a rusting nail in her house in Gaza. 
"Father is in jail in Israel. He lives there in a dark cell. I saw him once."

Jumana lives with her grandmother Umm Ala'a in the Rafah refugee camp 
in the southern Gaza Strip. Umm Ala'a says Jumana's father "was 
arrested by Israeli occupation forces in 2001 on his way back through 
the Rafah border. He was accompanying his father, who had received 
medical treatment abroad. An Israeli judge sentenced him to 18 years in jail."

Again, the family says that they have no idea what crime he 
committed. But one thing is clear; he, and so many others arrested, 
are not being punished for firing rockets into Israel. Nor have most 
of them carried out what Israel considers terrorist attacks.

"His crime is he was Palestinian," Umm Ala'a said. "This is a tax on 
life that we all pay."

Many Palestinians are convicted on charges never disclosed, but many 
are in Israeli prisons without ever being charged. Ahmad Abu Haniyah, 
youth coordinator for the Alternative Information Centre, a 
20-year-old project set up jointly by Israeli and Palestinian 
journalists, was arrested by the Israelis in May 
2005.  http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article6899.shtml   He was 
released in May 2007. The Israelis never told him why he was arrested 
in the first place. He was never charged or tried; the Israelis call 
this administrative detention.

By now most Palestinian families know a relative or friend who has 
been held in administrative detention.

Israel occasionally releases batches of prisoners as a "goodwill 
gesture." This plays well internationally, but these are usually 
people close to release date anyway. These gestures benefit few 
Palestinians, and fools even fewer.

Atia Abu Mussa has been held in the Nafha desert prison for 14 years 
now; he was detained when he was 21. Every Monday friends and 
relatives of Atia, along with others, gather outside the office of 
the International Red Cross in Gaza to hold a vigil for their loved ones.

"My son has been on hunger strike for a week," says Ramdan al-Baba, 
standing outside the Red Cross office. "He worked as a guard at 
[former] president Yasser Arafat's compound in Ramallah in 2003. His 
crime was that he had that job." The conditions in Israeli prison are 
dire, he said. "I can't even send him a letter."

Palestinians find themselves unable to invoke habeas corpus, a 
provision under the Geneva Convention by which a state must produce 
information on the whereabouts of a person within its jurisdiction. 
Israel denies this option on the grounds that it is not necessary for 
persons under administrative detention. At the moment 863 
Palestinians have been in jail for more than 15 years under such 
detention, according to official Palestinian figures.

There are a total of 10,400 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. 
These include 90 women and 328 children below the age of 18, 
according to the Palestinian Ministry of Detainees and Ex-Detainees. 
Forty-six of the prisoners are members of parliament, mostly members of Hamas.

Israeli human rights groups say that security forces called Shin Bet 
regularly torture Palestinians in Israeli jails. The two groups 
B'Tselem and HaMoked: Centre for Defence of Individuals, tracked 73 
prisoners between July 2005 and July 2006. They reported that Shin 
Bet routinely uses "beatings, painful binding, back bending, body 
stretching and prolonged sleep deprivation" to torture Palestinian prisoners.

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