[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
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
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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