Free Ahmad Qatamesh, Israel's longest-held administrative detention prisoner

September 23, 2013
Ahmad Qatamesh.

Ahmad Qatamesh is a 62-year-old Palestinian University academic, writer and political activist who has been held in an Israeli jail under administrative detention for more than two years.

Under Israel’s policy of administrative detention, people can be held without charge or trial for indefinite periods.

Qatamesh was arrested at his brother’s home by Israeli soldiers on April 21, 2011 and has since had his administrative detention extended seven times by Israeli military courts. The last extension was handed down on August 27. No justification or reasons were given for the extension of his illegal imprisonment.

As a leading human rights activist and political writer , Qatamesh was sought after by the Israeli army for his opposition to the occupation. He lived underground for 17 years.

He was arrested in 1992 and spent almost six years in Israeli jails in administrative detention without charge, until released in 1998. He wrote a memoir of his jail experiences, Shall Not Wear Your Tarboosh, which included a section on hbeing subjected to torture.

He is the longest held Palestinian administrative detainee held in Israeli jails.

Amnesty International has declared Ahmad to be a “prisoner of conscience” held because of his political writings and demanded his immediate and unconditional release. Amnesty says there is “no apparent reason to hold him” and “believes he is being held to suppress his views and to deter political activities by other Palestinian left-wing activists”.

Administrative detention allows Israel to hold people in prison indefinitely on the basis of alleged secret evidence that the military courts withholds from the detainee and their lawyers. The Israeli policy of administrative detention violates international law and is a flagrant violation of the basic human rights to know why one is detained and to be given the opportunity to defend oneself.

Qatamesh is one of more than 160 Palestinian political prisoners currently being held in administrative detention by Israel. Qatamesh and his lawyer have repeatedly demanded his release or for detailed reasons to be given for his continued jailing.

It is also very difficult for relatives from the occupied West Bank to obtain permits to visit detained Palestinian prisoners like Ahmad Qatamesh who are being held in Israel. According to the Geneva Convention, individuals under occupation should be held within the occupied territory, not sent to another territory or country.

The Israeli secret service Shin Bet accuses Qatamesh of being a leading member of the Palestinian resistance group, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). Qatamesh has consistently maintained this is untrue and is an excuse by Israel to keep him imprisoned.

His lawyer said that Qatamesh “has always said that he is a writer and politician and that he will struggle politically, not violently, against the Israeli occupation and against the so-called peace processes”.

The real reasons for Qatamesh’s arrest and continued jailing are his articulate, passionate and steadfast commitment to his people’s just struggle and his political beliefs. This includes his support for a one state solution to the conflict and his calls for popular civil resistance to the brutal Israeli occupation.

The Israeli military forces fear the example of Ahmad Qatamesh’s views and the spreading peaceful disobedience campaign against Israel in the Palestinian territories and want to deter other activists following Qatamesh’s ideas.

In a statement, Amnesty said: “To Amnesty International’s knowledge, he has never been involved with PFLP-affiliated armed groups or advocated violence ...

“The reasons for Ahmad Qatamesh’s arrest and continued administrative detention are his peaceful expression, in his writing and teaching, of non-violent political views and the fact that he is considered a mentor for left-wing students and political activists, some of whom may be affiliated to the PFLP.”

Many countries that profess support for human rights seem to ignore the widespread and cruel human rights violations that frequently occur in Israel. Mistreatment in other repressive states frequently gets media publicity, but the human rights abuses committed by Israel on Palestinians are frequently neglected.

Israeli military courts and the use of administrative detention are not a just or respectable legal system. Qatamesh and all other administrative detainees should be immediately freed from Israeli prisons, or charged with specific offences and given a fair trial in a proper court of law where international standards of justice apply.

[You can write to Ahmad Qatamesh at Ofer Prison, Givat Zeev, P.O. Box 3007, via Israel.]

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