Lawmakers and activists in France are demanding action from their government to free Salah Hamouri, a Palestinian-French human rights defender detained by Israel.
On Tuesday, the Israeli military ordered Hamouri held without charge or trial for six months.
The administrative detention order came after a judge in Jerusalem had ruled that he should be released to house arrest. Instead, Hamouri will stay in prison.
Under Israel’s administrative detention system, a relic of British colonial rule, occupation forces can jail Palestinians indefinitely without ever charging them with an offense or presenting them with evidence.
Hamouri, 32, was arrested from his home in occupied East Jerusalem last Wednesday. He is a field researcher with prisoners rights group Addameer. He had previously spent seven years in Israeli prisons but was freed in a prisoner exchange in 2011.
“An example for us all”
Israeli forces previously charged Hamouri in 2005, claiming he was part of a plot by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine to kill Ovadia Yosef, a prominent Israeli rabbi who habitually incited genocidal levels of violence to “annihilate” Palestinians.
Hamouri always maintained his innocence. He was held for three years in administrative detention, before accepting a plea deal from Israel’s military court in order to obtain a shorter sentence. Israel’s military court has a conviction rate for Palestinians of nearly 100 percent.
French citizens organized in support of Hamouri, and even Nicolas Sarkozy, France’s right-wing president at the time, urged Israel to release him in 2011.
After his release, according to Addameer, Hamouri was banned from entering the occupied West Bank until September last year, and his wife is currently still banned.
“This case is not simply the arrest of an individual,” Addameer stated on Tuesday. “It is part of a systematic policy of disempowerment. The aim is to ensure that any work supporting the Palestinian quest for self-determination is punished severely.”
The group added: “For human rights defenders, there are two choices. Give up on your cause, or accept the life of constant punishment. It is not an easy choice to make. Salah could easily leave, live in France, and have a quiet life with his wife and child.”
But Hamouri’s choice to stay in Palestine and work for people’s rights is “an example for us all,” Addameer added.
An “injustice and a scandal”
Calls from French activists and politicians demanding Hamouri’s release intensified on Tuesday.
Eric Couquerel, a lawmaker with the left-wing La France Insoumise movement of former presidential candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon, called Hamouri’s detention “an injustice and a scandal” and demanded his immediate release.The Communist Party, which holds 10 seats in France’s lower house, condemned the detention of Hamouri as “totally illegal under international human rights conventions.”
“President Emmanuel Macron and foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, who have remained silent since Salah Hamouri’s arrest, must intervene firmly, today, with their Israeli counterparts so that our fellow citizen is immediately released without condition,” the party added.
Other lawmakers and activists have been tweeting similar messages.
Surge in administrative detentions
According to Addameer, there are currently 450 Palestinians in administrative detention, including 10 members of the Palestinian Legislative Council.
This number is lower than it has been in recent months, but there has recently been a sharp rise in Israel’s use of the measure.
More Palestinians were detained without charge in August than in any month this year, according to the Palestinian Prisoners Society.
Last Thursday, the Israeli military court issued 20 new administrative detention orders or extensions to Palestinians, according to prisoner solidarity group Samidoun. That brought the total for August to over 100.
The youngest Palestinian held in administrative detention is 16-year-old Nour Kayed Faiq Issa, arrested by dozens of soldiers in a night raid on his family’s home in the West Bank village of Anata in April.
With Hamouri’s jailing, at least two of Addameer’s staff are now in Israel’s prisons.