Israel extends detention of French human rights defender

Activists have mobilized strong support for Salah Hamouri, the Palestinian-French human rights defender jailed by Israel without charge or trial since last August. But the French government appears to be doing nothing to secure his release. (via Facebook)

Ignoring the mild protestations of the French government, Israeli defense minister Avigdor Lieberman has extended the administrative detention of Palestinian-French human rights defender Salah Hamouri for an additional three months.

Like the 430 other administrative detainees held by Israel, Hamouri has been imprisoned without charge or trial since he was seized by Israeli occupation forces from his home in occupied East Jerusalem last August.

Hamouri works as a researcher with prisoners rights group Addameer.

On Thursday, the left-wing newspaper L’Humanité asked the French foreign ministry for its reaction to the extension and what France is doing to secure Hamouri’s freedom.

“We can only regret this decision, on which an Israeli court is expected to rule in coming days,” the ministry responded.

That presumably refers to a hearing scheduled for Sunday, in which, based on previous experience, an Israeli military judge will almost certainly confirm the defense minister’s decision.

The French foreign ministry added that since Hamouri’s arrest, “we have not ceased sending specific requests to the Israeli authorities, in order that his administrative detention be brought to an end.”

It noted that President Emmanuel Macron had personally raised Hamouri’s case during meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

But as L’Humanité observes, neither Macron, nor France’s foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian have publicly mentioned Hamouri’s case.

France-Israel Season

And in its public statements, the French government has pointedly not demanded Hamouri’s immediate release – only saying that it “hopes” he will be freed soon.

Israel’s comfort with ignoring requests, even from Macron, is not surprising given his government’s policy of rewarding Israel unconditionally no matter what it does.

While Hamouri languishes in an Israeli cell, it is full steam ahead for the Saison France-Israël, or France-Israel Season, a months-long series of propaganda events backed by both countries to boost Israel’s image.

On 5 June, Macron rolled out the red carpet for Netanyahu for the gala launch event in Paris as Palestine solidarity activists shut down the Champs-Élysées, many carrying signs demanding Hamouri’s release.

Also this month, dozens of Israeli weapons companies displayed their deadly wares at the Eurosatory arms fair the French government organized in Paris, including the maker of rifles that have been used by Israeli snipers to massacre unarmed Palestinians protesting in Gaza.

Despite the government’s inaction, there has been an outpouring of support for Hamouri in France, as campaigners continue to mobilize for his release.

On 19 June, Fabien Gay, a senator from the Paris region, tweeted that Hamouri had been imprisoned by Israel for 300 days, “with no trial and no access to his file in order to defend himself.”

“We won’t forget you, we are by your side,” Gay added.

Honorary citizen

Prisoners solidarity group Samidoun notes that Hamouri has “received the official support of dozens of French cities and towns and over 1,700 elected officials.”

In some towns, according to Samidoun, “mayors who have hung banners for Hamouri’s freedom have faced orders and judicial complaints in an attempt to force their removal, despite the fact that urging Hamouri’s release is ostensibly the official position of the French government.”

Samidoun adds that the renewal of his detention comes just days before Hamouri is due to be declared an honorary citizen of the town of Montcel, in a ceremony expected to be attended by the mayor and the local member of parliament.

Hamouri’s parents, and his wife Elsa Lefort, who has coordinated the campaign for her partner’s release, are expected to address the ceremony by video link from Jerusalem.

This week, more than 200 organizations around the world signed a statement urging actions and protests to demand that Israel release Khalida Jarrar, the Palestinian lawmaker and feminist who has been imprisoned without charge or trial for almost a year.

On 14 June, according to Samidoun, Jarrar was told her administrative detention would be extended for another four months, an order that is expected to be confirmed by an Israeli military court on 2 July.

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The expression, "administrative detention" appears official and acceptable language. What it really is saying, to those who question, is that such a murky expression attempts to cover up the reality, namely that the person is imprisoned illegally, by Israeli authorities, and genuine judicial procedures have had little or no part in the sentence. In other words, it is more than likely for someone to get locked up for nothing. Or for not being liked by those in authority because of justifiable human rights actions.

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