Ahmad Qatamesh (photo courtesy of Suha Barghouti)
Amnesty International has renewed its call on Israel to release Palestinian academic and activist Ahmad Qatamesh, who has been held for two years without charge or trial — a practice known as administrative detention.
Amnesty stated yesterday: “Qatamesh, a 62-year-old academic who Amnesty International believes is being detained to deter political activities by other Palestinian left-wing activists, was yesterday told he will be held for at least another four months from 29 April.”
Amnesty also reports that Qatamesh is suffering from medical neglect — a troubling development given the recent death of Palestinian detainee Maysara Abuhamdia after he was denied proper cancer treatment by prison authorities. According to Amnesty, “[Qatamesh’s] wife says he has suffered from undiagnosed ailments causing nausea and faintness – but his request to see an independent doctor has been refused by prison authorities.”
Qatamesh has been detained since 21 April 2011, when Israeli soldiers raided his West Bank home, holding his family members hostage at gunpoint until Qatamesh, who was not home at the time, surrendered himself. Ahmad’s daughter, Hanin Ahmad Qatamesh, described in harrowing detail the late-night raid on the family home in an article for The Electronic Intifada.
Qatamesh’s wife, human rights activist Suha Barghouti, told The Electronic Intifada shortly after Ahmad’s arrest: “It’s so clear that he is there [in Israeli prison] because of his ideas and political activism. He is a prisoner of conscience and he is there because of political reasons.”
Qatamesh was previously held by Israel for more than five years without charge or trial during the 1990s, during which he was subjected to torture, he alleges in a book he wrote on the experience.
Repression of Palestinian left
Amnesty has described Qatamesh as a prisoner of conscience held by Israel because of his political writing and mentorship of left-wing students and activists, some of whom may be associated with the leftist party Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
The secretary general of the PFLP, Ahmad Saadat, is currently in Israeli prison and has spent long periods in solitary confinement after he was kidnapped by Israeli forces from a Palestinian Authority prison near Jericho in the occupied West Bank in 2006 (Saadat was detained there for four years without being convicted of a crime). Saadat had been elected general secretary of the PFLP after Israel extrajudicially executed his predecessor, Abu Ali Mustafa, in his Ramallah home in 2001.
Israel has increasingly targeted grassroots activists and human rights defenders as Palestinians organize more direct action challenging the occupation, including protest villages that have sprung up across the occupied West Bank.
Stop the Wall leader Jamal Juma’ told The Electronic Intifada earlier this year:
we weren’t surprised that they arrested someone like Hassan. Hassan is a young activist, and in the latest development of the popular resistance, like in Bab al-Shams and Bab al-Karame [protest villages] and different other initiatives, where our people are challenging the occupation in very sensitive areas like E-1 [near Jerusalem] and the settlements where they confiscate the land, and they came for the first time as Palestinians building villages and tents to stay in — not because they are escaping from the occupation, but we call it the return back camps, to go back to the land that they are trying to take out and confiscate from the people.
So we expected that they are going to deal with us much more violently, and they are going to arrest us, and we don’t know who will be after Hassan.
Repression of the Palestinian-led boycott, divestment and sanctions movement and the movement in support of Palestinian political prisoners was the motivation behind Israel’s raids on prominent civil society groups last year, according to Sahar Francis, director of the Palestinian prisoner rights group Addameer, one of the targets of the raids.
Addameer researcher Ayman Nasser also remains in detention after he was arrested by Israeli forces during a late-night raid on his West Bank family home last October. The father of four young children was subjected to 39 days of interrogation which included coercive measures that Addameer states “were practiced against him in order to break him psychologically and physically.”
Amnesty International’s full statement on Ahmad Qatamesh follows:
Palestinian academic given detention extension must be released
Israel must release a Palestinian activist held without charge for two years, Amnesty International urged today after his administrative detention was extended for the sixth time without justification.
Ahmed Qatamesh, a 62-year-old academic who Amnesty International believes is being detained to deter political activities by other Palestinian left-wing activists, was yesterday told he will be held for at least another four months from 29 April.
“Ahmed Qatamesh is a prisoner of conscience who is being detained solely for expressing non-violent political beliefs,” said Amnesty International’s Ann Harrison, Deputy Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme.
“His continued detention is arbitrary and he must be immediately and unconditionally released.”
Ahmad Qatamesh is one of about 160 Palestinians currently held by Israel under administrative detention orders.
These allow for indefinite detention on the basis of secret evidence that the military prosecution withholds from the detainee and their lawyer, denying detainees the basic right to defend themselves.
“The cruel nature of administrative detention means detainees and their families live in a constant state of uncertainty. As each order expires their hopes are raised and then dashed as they are handed a fresh order,” said Ann Harrison.
Ahmad Qatamesh’s wife, a board member of local NGO Addameer, told Amnesty International this week that it “would have been easier” for the family if her husband had been sentenced to three years’ imprisonment.
Ahmad Qatamesh is a political writer who has called for a one state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
There is no apparent reason to hold him, and since his arrest he has not been charged or brought to trial.
Ahmad Qatamesh’s ordeal began on 21 April 2011 when he was arrested from his brother’s house in Ramallah by Israeli security forces.
His daughter said security forces ordered her at gunpoint to telephone him after they failed to find him at his own home.
Since then, Qatamesh has been questioned for a mere 10 minutes by the Israel Security Agency (ISA).
They claim that he is a member of the political wing of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and poses a security threat.
He says he has not been involved with PFLP for 14 years, although in the 1990s he was a political and intellectual supporter.
“I am under arrest now and don’t know why,” he said in June 2011.
Palestinians in the occupied West Bank face huge obstacles in obtaining permits to visit relatives in detention even though the Geneva Convention stipulates that individuals under occupation should be held within the occupied territory.
Ahmad Qatamesh’s wife says he has suffered from undiagnosed ailments causing nausea and faintness – but his request to see an independent doctor has been refused by prison authorities.
“The Israeli government must stop the use of administrative detention and release all administrative detainees unless they are promptly charged with internationally recognizable offences and tried in accordance with international fair trial standards,” said Ann Harrison.
Ahmad Qatamesh was held without charge for over five years in the 1990s. After his release in 1998, he wrote about his experiences – including being subjected to torture – in a book entitled I Shall Not Wear Your Tarboosh.