Locking up Palestine’s peaceful leaders
Lawyer facing 18 months in jail is latest in pattern of ‘harassment’ of Palestinian activists
By Amnesty UK
October 24, 2013
The Israeli authorities must drop all charges against a Palestinian human rights lawyer released on bail last night, Amnesty International has said.
Anas Barghouti, a lawyer with the Addameer Association for Prisoner Support and Human Rights, was released on bail on the orders of a military judge at Ofer Military Court yesterday because confessions from other detainees submitted as evidence failed to prove he is a security threat.
Barghouti had been arrested by the Israeli army more than a month ago [15 September, see below], at a checkpoint north of Bethlehem in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Nine days later he was charged with “membership in the Palestinian Front for the Liberation of Palestine” – an organisation which Israel has banned – and “leadership of a committee to organise demonstrations”.
If convicted on these charges – which he denies – Barghouti faces up to 18 months in prison, in which case Amnesty would consider him a prisoner of conscience, imprisoned solely for his work on behalf of prisoners and the peaceful expression of his political views. The Addameer Association provides legal support to Palestinians held by the Palestinian Authority’s security forces and campaigns for the rights of Palestinians imprisoned by Israel.
Amnesty International Middle East and North Africa Director Philip Luther said:
The release of Anas Bargouthi is positive news but he should have never been detained and charged in the first place.
This release should be a first step towards the authorities ending their harassment of Palestinian human rights defenders.
It is unacceptable for Israeli authorities to continue to prosecute activists because of their peaceful work in defence of human rights.
Barghouti’s arrest is part of a pattern of harassment by the Israeli authorities of Palestinian human rights organisations and activists in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, with individuals suffering arbitrary detentions, restrictions on movement, and raids of homes and offices. For example, last December Israeli security forces raided the offices of Addameer and two other Palestinian NGOs in Ramallah, seizing computers, work files and equipment and ransacking the premises.
Addameer’s chair, Abdullatif Ghaith, a resident of East Jerusalem, has been banned by Israel’s military from entering other parts of the occupied West Bank or travelling abroad since 2011. Meanwhile, on 23 September, a week after Bargouthi’s arrest, Israeli forces also arrested Samer Arbid, Addameer’s accountant. He was placed in custody for questioning until 21 October and then given a four-month administrative detention order – a military order without charge or trial which can be extended indefinitely.
Yet another activist from Addameer – Ayman Nasser – was arrested in October last year and charged with offences that included membership of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and carrying out activities in support of Palestinian prisoners. He was convicted of these charges a month later and spent a year in prison after a trial by military court, being released earlier this week. In detention Nasser told his lawyer that he had been tortured during interrogation following his arrest. He said he was interrogated for up to 20 hours every day and that during the interrogations he was kept in a stress position on a chair with his hands tied behind his back.
Media release by Addameer
October 23, 2013
Occupied Ramallah- The Ofer Military Court judge issued an official order to release detained lawyer Anas Barghouthi on 12,000 NIS bail today.
This decision came after the military prosecution decided not to appeal the release order that was issued yesterday during his hearing yesterday.
The judge at Ofer Military Court issued an order to release detained lawyer Anas Barghouthi yesterday giving the prosecution 24 hours to appeal this decision. The judge’s decision was made after a long battle in court by defense lawyer Adv. Mahmoud Hassan, who refuted the prosecutions claims and charges.
Barghouthi’s family and friends are preparing to meet him today at Ofer Military Prison in Betunia at 6pm, after paying the 12,000 NIS bail.
Human rights defender Anas Barghouthi (30 years old) was detained by the IOF on Sunday 15 September 2013 at a military checkpoint between Bethlehem and Ramallah.
Barghouthi was a lawyer at Addameer between 2009 and 2013, and is one of the first lawyers to defend political prisoners in Palestinian Authority prisons. He is dedicated to defending human rights, especially those of Palestinian prisoners and detainees in the Occupations’ prisons.
By Allison Deger, Mondoweiss
September 19, 2013
As far as anyone knows human rights defender Anas Barghouti will finally find out why he was jailed when he goes to trial early next week. He was arrested last Sunday at a checkpoint near Bethlehem ominously referred to by locals as the “container” because it has a reputation of soldiers holding, then transporting Palestinians—often landing them in an Israeli prison.
This is what happened to Barghouti. He was taken to an Israeli detention facility, then another one for questioning—a fact that is further confused because Barghouti, like many Palestinians captured at the “container,” has not been charged with any crime. And Barghouti himself is a prominent attorney, having built a reputation representing Palestinian political prisoners incarcerated by the Palestinian Authority. He is also a staple activist in Ramallah, a regular at protests for Gaza, or against negotiations.
“He really is a human rights defender,” said colleague Randa Wahbe, an advocacy officer at the prisoner rights legal group Addameer. “He is well loved and he is constantly working” in both a private practice as pro-bono with Addameer.
Addameer, Barghouti’s former employer released a statement yesterday with details on his whereabouts:
Bargouthi is currently being held in a detention and interrogation center in Etzion settlement in the southern West Bank, where he is being held in inhumane conditions. In the first 36 hours of his detention, he was only given two meals, not allowed to shower, change his clothing or given any personal hygiene products.
What’s unclear is why the advocate is sharing the fate of his clients. When I spoke to Addameer, they just didn’t have any more details other than his court date. “We don’t know anything else,” said Wahbe.
Palestinians held administrative detention do not have the right to know what evidence is presented against them, what suspicions are levied on them, or how long they will be locked up. Even more, under military code the Israelis can pass new restrictions without disclosing them to Palestinians, which leads to the occupied West Bank residents breaking tenets they did not know existed.
Such was the case with a colleague of Barghouti, Ayman Nasser, a legal researcher who was held in administrative detention until he was finally charged after one year with “prisoner solidarity and support.” Nasser was sentenced to 13 months prison. The judge said it was because he attended a demonstration for the then hunger-striking prisoners. Yet at the time when I interviewed his co-workers and legal defense team, they said during interrogation the Israeli authorities mostly asked Nasser about his job.
In court Nasser objected. ”I am a human rights defender who supports the Palestinian prisoners,” he said noting that he was ostensibly being punished for NGO work, political NGO work, but advocacy nonetheless. “I represent my opinions in the public media. My thoughts are not secret, they are public, and everyone knows them.”
Then a few months later under the cover of night the Israeli military raided Addameer’s office in the upscale Ramallah neighborhood of Masyoun.
Barghouti will appear at Ofer military court on Sunday, perhaps then he will know what offense is being leaned against him.