[Pnews] Israel detains Palestinian leftist 9 years without trial

Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Tue Nov 19 10:43:28 EST 2013

  Israel detains Palestinian leftist without trial

Patrick O. Strickland 

18 November 2013

Detained without trial since his arrest in the occupied West Bank city 
of Ramallah in April 2011, supporters of a left-wing Palestinian writer 
and academic are nevertheless hopeful that he will be freed next month.

Ahmad Qatamesh <http://electronicintifada.net/tags/ahmad-qatamesh> has 
not been charged with a crime, but Israel has repeatedly renewed his 
detention orders. This has drawn criticism from human rights groups 
including Amnesty International 
<http://electronicintifada.net/tags/amnesty-international>, which has 
called the 62-year-old a prisoner of conscience.

"My husband has now spent a total of nine years in jail without ever 
being given a single charge," said Suha Barghouti, Qatamesh's wife. 
"Every lawyer I've ever talked to about his case cannot see any law he's 

Between 1992 and 1998, Qatamesh was the Palestinian political prisoner 
held for the longest time ever under administrative detention 
<http://electronicintifada.net/tags/administrative-detention> by Israel. 
Under administrative detention orders, a detainee can be indefinitely 
held without charge or trial. No other Palestinian prisoner has spent as 
much time behind Israeli bars without eventually being charged, 
according to his wife.

But now he has been detained with a new series of administrative 
detention <http://electronicintifada.net/tags/administrative-detention> 
orders. The latest was issued in August and expires on 28 December.

Barghouti said that at a military court hearing in late August ahead of 
the latest renewal, "the Israeli judge accepted Ahmad's release once the 
administrative detention order expired because he wasn't convinced he is 
a threat."

Israel's military intelligence won an appeal, and as a result, 
Qatamesh's administrative detention was extended for the seventh 
consecutive period of six months. If they decide to file another appeal, 
the judge ruled that Israel's intelligence must provide new evidence 
that Qatamesh is still involved in activities deemed illegal by Israel.

Barghouti described living in a state of uncertainty, never knowing if 
her husband will actually be sent home after an order expires. "They can 
renew it at any time, and sometimes they wait til the last minute," she 

The Qatamesh family's concerns have only been deepened by reports that 
his health is deteriorating rapidly as he is transferred from prison to 
prison but never allowed proper medical treatment. Because Qatamesh is 
not permitted to talk to his family via telephone, Barghouti is fearful.


Barghouti recently learned that the Israel Prison Service 
<http://electronicintifada.net/tags/israel-prison-service> -- regularly 
accused of systematic and far-reaching human rights violations -- 
intends to transfer her husband from Ramon Prison in the Naqab 
<http://electronicintifada.net/tags/negev-naqab> (Negev) region to 
Megiddo prison, located in the north of present-day Israel.

"The conditions inside Megiddo are very, very bad," Barghouti explained. 
In February, Arafat Jaradat 
<http://electronicintifada.net/tags/arafat-jaradat>, who was beaten 
during his arrest and subsequently tortured during interrogation, died 
in a special segment of Megiddo 
used by Israel's Shin Bet intelligence agency while being held without 

Barghouti added, "We have a question: why's he even being transferred? 
Is it to intentionally hurt his health? Other prisoners have told us, 
and human rights groups, that he is losing consciousness a lot."

In addition to regularly fainting, Qatamesh "suffers from high blood 
pressure. Together they are making his health much worse," Barghouti said.

She believes that her husband's present health problems likely stem from 
the extensive torture he endured during his six-year detention in the 
1990s; in his prison memoirs /I Shall Not Wear Your Tarboush/, Qatamesh 
describes in detail the torture and abuse he endured for more than 100 
days. Because he often loses consciousness suddenly and for hours at a 
time, "he needs to see a serious head specialist, but as far as we know, 
he's only being given Tylenol and [other] painkillers," Barghouti said.

In response to Israel's plans to transfer Qatamesh, the Palestinian 
prisoners' rights group Addameer 
<http://electronicintifada.net/tags/addameer> filed a request that he 
instead be moved to Ofer military prison 
<http://electronicintifada.net/tags/ofer-prison> near Ramallah. The 
request was based on the grounds that Qatamesh's court hearings are held 
there and family visits would be more accessible. The Israel Prison 
Service has yet to respond.

"Maybe he's already been transferred," Barghouti said. "Since Israel 
gives very little information to prisoners' families, we have no way of 


Qatamesh's family, like those of all Palestinian political prisoners, 
are forced to deal with incessant, arbitrary barriers in order to visit 
their loved ones.

"I'm only permitted to visit him once every six or eight months," 
Barghouti said. Only Qatamesh's wife, daughter and sister have been 
allowed to visit. His brothers have been denied visitation permits time 
and time again.

Barghouti explained that she has been denied entry into Israel or 
passage at checkpoints on several occasions, despite having a valid 
permit from Israeli authorities. "Because of this, I've only seen him 
three times in the last two and a half years," she said, adding that the 
most recent visit took place in September.

Qatemesh's only child, Hanin, began visiting her father in prison during 
his first detainment, when she was just three years old. Twenty years 
later, she is once more only able to see him on rare occasions.

Hanin must wake up at 5:00am and travel all the way from Ramallah to 
Ramon, stopping and waiting for undetermined periods at the numerous 
Israeli military checkpoints along the way. Her mother explains that she 
usually doesn't get home until 8:00pm at the earliest -- all for a 
45-minute conversation in which she can only see her father through a 
glass window and speak to him via telephone.

"It's not easy. Family visits are very complicated," said Barghouti, 
adding that the "conversation is difficult because you know someone is 
listening, that it's being monitored."

She also described the degrading and arbitrary security checks imposed 
on visiting relatives: "Last time the soldiers made me take off my bra 
before I entered. There are so many procedures. It's humiliating, it's 
difficult, and it takes a toll on a family's soul."


Following his first arrest in 1992, a judge ordered that Qatamesh be 
released for lack of evidence against him.

Yet he was detained on administrative detention orders until 1998, the 
longest any Palestinian political prisoner has been held without trial. 
He was then part of a prisoner release agreement between the Palestinian 
Authority and Israel.

Israel had accused him of being a leader in the Popular Front for the 
Liberation of Palestine <http://electronicintifada.net/tags/pflp> 
(PFLP), a leftist political party and resistance group banned by Israel, 
though never charged him or brought forth evidence.

Although Barghouti told The Electronic Intifada that Qatamesh hasn't had 
ties to the PFLP since his 1998 release, Israel made the same accusation 
to justify his 2011 arrest --- though without giving any evidence.

In the years following his release, Qatamesh repeatedly applied for 
permits to travel abroad, but was always denied. Israeli military 
decrees also banned him from entering occupied East Jerusalem or 
present-day Israel. "My husband hasn't seen Jerusalem in over thirty 
years," Barghouti said.

During the 2011 arrest, Israeli occupation soldiers invaded Qatamesh's 
home and held his family hostage at gunpoint until they were able to 
locate him at a relative's house and arrest him.

"They pointed their machine guns at us and told us they wanted to search 
the house. My 14-year-old cousin, Nai, and 69-year-old aunt were 
sleeping inside," Hanin, just 22 years old at the time, described in an 
article she wrote for the The Electronic Intifada 

    No support

Barghouti said her husband has been targeted for no other reason than 
"his ideas, writings and lectures given across the West Bank." Qatamesh 
has also been repeatedly interrogated about his PhD dissertation 
research on popular Palestinian resistance.

Amnesty International agrees, stating that "Qatamesh is a political 
prisoner who is being detained solely for expressing nonviolent 
political beliefs," and calls for his release 

The prisoner rights group Addameer, where Barghouti is a board member, 
has helped her keep her husband's freedom campaign alive. A lawyer from 
the Palestinian Authority-backed Palestinian Prisoners Club has also helped.

Qatamesh has also received hundreds of support letters from academics 
across the world. Additionally, hundreds of letters have been mailed to 
the Israeli government demanding his freedom, said Barghouti.

The Palestinian Authority, on the other hand, has failed to match these 
efforts, offering Qatamesh support only "from individuals in the 
government who know and respect him, but not as our representative 
authority," Barghouti said. "No, they didn't do anything -- I've seen 
nothing from them."

Although the PA struck a deal with Israel to bring home a total of 104 
long-term Palestinian political prisoners --- 52 of whom have already 
been released --- there are still 5,046 Palestinians from present-day 
Israel, the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip behind Israeli bars, 
according to Addameer's latest statistics.

    Administrative detention spikes

Qatamesh is in the company of another 134 administrative detainees held 
by Israel without charge on "secret evidence," according to Addameer 

International and Palestinian human rights organizations have repeatedly 
called on Israel to end its excessive use of administrative detention.

"Israel has used its system of administrative detention --- intended as 
an exceptional measure against people posing an extreme and imminent 
danger to security --- to trample on the human rights of detainees for 
decades," Ann Harrison, deputy director of Amnesty International, said 
in a 2012 statement 
"It is a relic that should be put out to pasture."

Israel has escalated its use of administrative detention in recent 
weeks. In October, the administrative detention orders of 38 prisoners 
were extended, the Palestine News Network 
reported, citing the Palestinian Prisoners Society. From that total, at 
least fifteen will remain imprisoned at a minimum of six additional months.

The culture of impunity surrounding Israeli military courts allows 
administrative detentions to be renewed repeatedly or even indefinitely.

Acknowledging the utter lack of justice for Palestinians accused by 
Israel, Barghouti nonetheless expressed optimism regarding her husband's 
case: "To be honest, I think he has a good chance of being released 
because so far there's been no appeal.

"This is the first time I've seen Israel's court acknowledge that 
Ahmad's not in prison for security reasons or for PFLP membership, but 
because he is intelligent and has influence among the people," she said.

/Patrick O. Strickland is an independent journalist whose reporting has 
appeared at Al Jazeera English, The Electronic Intifada, AlterNet and 
elsewhere. Follow him on Twitter: @P_Strickland_ 

Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
863.9977 www.freedomarchives.org
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