Mahmoud Issa Moussa Dar Issa has been held in isolation in Israeli prisons for several periods since his detention in 1993. At the time of his arrest, Mahmoud acted as manager of the Jerusalem office of a newspaper published in Umm al-Fahm, Haifa. He was sentenced to three life terms and 49 years in September 1993. By way of comparison, Israel sentenced Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouti to five life terms.
After spending several months in isolation during his trial in 1993, Mahmoud was held for an additional several months in isolation in 1995. The Israeli Prison Service then “punished” Mahmoud in 1996 for an attempt to escape from prison with an isolation period of one and a half years. Since 24 October 2002 Mahmoud has been held in long-term isolation. The prison authorities have mostly justified Mahmoud’s isolation as a “security measure”. Palestinian prisoner support organization Addameer has published a detailed profile of Mahmoud Issa Moussa Dar Issa’s experiences in Israeli jails on its website.
Israel’s practice of isolation
According to Addameer, Israel’s practice of isolation means that prisioners are held in a cell alone or with one other prisoner for 23 hours a day. They are allowed to leave their cell one hour daily for a solitary walk. Prisoners have reported to Addameer that they often remained handcuffed and sometimes even leg shackled during the walk. In most cases a small window in the isolation cell does not allow in sufficient light or air from outside. More details about isolation and solitary confinement of Palestinian prisoners and detainees in Israeli facilities are described in Addameer’s briefing of August 2009.
Last October, Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli jails held a mass hunger strike demanding that Israel end the policy of keeping detainees in isolation. During the hunger strike, a large number of participating prisoners were placed in isolation. The hunger strike was put on hold after Israel agreed to end the practice and to release detainees from isolation. However, the agreement was not applicable to Mahmoud Issa.
Mahmoud’s long-term isolation started in Ashkelon prison. Periods of isolation followed in Hasharon, Beersheva and Ramleh prisons. The duration of isolation varies from prison to prison. After the expiry of one term, he has often been transferred to isolation in another prison. The conditions of Mahmoud’s detention are described by Addameer in his profile. Mahmoud was transferred from Ramon prison to Gilboa prison on 5 October 2011 following the announcement by several political prisoners that they would protest the worsening detention conditions. He is held in isolation with another prisoner called Jehad Ya’amor. Ameer Makhoul is also detained in Gilboa prison.
Two family visits since 2002
Family members have the right to visit their relatives in detention. Last year, Hisham Hassan, spokesperson of the ICRC in Geneva, confirmed that Israel is required by Article 27 of the Fourth Geneva Convention to allow these visits. However, since the beginning of Mahmoud’s isolation in 2002, his family has barely seen him. According to Addameer, visits have usually been denied for “security reasons”, and further requests have at times resulted in an extension of his isolation to exacerbate the growing separation from his family. The family managed to visit Mahmoud twice, once in 2002 and once in 2005. The last visit by his mother in 2005 followed a successful legal action. However, the visit was restricted to half an hour and Mahmoud’s feet remained shackled during the visit. He had to speak to his elderly mother on the phone through a glass divider. Four years later, the family again petitioned the military court to allow them to visit Mahmoud. The petition was rejected on the grounds that if a captured Israeli soldier in Gaza was unable to receive family visits, then neither should Palestinian prisoners such as Mahmoud. Mahmoud’s lawyer continues to petition the military courts, requesting that Mahmoud be allowed to visit his 75-year old mother, who is currently very sick. These petitions have so far been unsuccessful. His father died a year after Mahmoud’s arrest, but he was not allowed to attend the funeral or call his family at the time.
Latest news from Mahmoud’s sister Intisar
Yesterday, Addameer contacted Mahmoud’s sister Intisar to learn more about his situation. Addameer reports the telephone conversation with Intisar,
“Mahmoud’s only contact with his family is through the delegate of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). The family requests the ICRC to try to visit him every two weeks, though this almost never happens. The delegate was supposed to meet with him on 6 November, but the visit was postponed until 22 Nov ember because the director of the prison is Druze and wanted to take a holiday for Eid. On 22 November, something happened in the prison and the delegate was told he could not see him. It was again postponed until 5 December, and again not possible. He finally visited him on 22 December.
On his previous visit, Mahmoud asked that his family send him clothes for the winter, so he was waiting all the way until 22 December without his warm clothes. The delegate gave him the clothes and tried to give him books from his family. The Israeli Prison Service refused to allow the books (even though this ban on books was supposed to be lifted following the prisoners exchange.)
At the beginning of January, Mahmoud was taken to a court in Nazareth, where his isolation was extended for another 6 months. In order to make it difficult for him and to prevent him from mixing with any other prisoners, he was put in a tiny individual car during his transfer to and from the court.”
Mahmoud has written several books, including one entitled “Resistance between Theory and Practice”, published in 2000 by the Palestinian Information Center.
Intisar told Addameer that her brother is able to receive letters, but only during visits by the ICRC delegate. He writes to his family but it sometimes takes almost two months for the letters to arrive.
Letters of support can be sent to Mahmoud Issa Moussa, Gilboa Prison, 10900 Gilboa, Israel