Palestinian circus trainer marks year in Israeli jail without charge

Palestinian clowns take part in a protest demanding the release of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, including their colleague, circus trainer and performer Mohammad Abu Sakha, in front of Red Cross offices in Gaza City, 8 February 2016.

Mohammed Asad APA images

As Mohammad Abu Sakha approaches the year anniversary of his arrest, Israeli authorities still refuse to provide any evidence that he poses a security risk.

Abu Sakha is the 25-year-old Palestinian circus trainer and performer who specializes in working with children with severe disabilities.

He was arrested on 14 December 2015 while he was en route from his home in Jenin, to his work at Birzeit University, near Ramallah in the occupied West Bank.

Israeli occupation forces stopped the bus he was riding, and when they checked all the passengers’ IDs, he was taken off the bus at gunpoint.

He has yet to be charged with any offense, or presented with any evidence to support the military’s claims he is a danger.

But on Monday, the Israeli high court reportedly reviewed his secret file and ruled that he still poses a threat to the security of Israel. In response, Abu Sakha’s attorney withdrew his petition against his client’s ongoing administrative detention.

In his work with the Palestinian Circus School since 2007, Abu Sakha has gone on multiple tours around the world with the children he teaches.

At the beginning of this year, the prisoner support group Addameer reported that the Israeli army accused Abu Sakha of being active in an illegal organization and taking part in military activities.

Abu Sakha told lawyers that the accusations were no more specific during his interrogations.

In June, Amnesty International said that Israel’s jailing of Abu Sakha “exemplifies the authorities’ arbitrary and repressive use of administrative detention.”

Medical negligence

The Palestinian Prisoners’ Center for Studies has released a new report claiming that 32 Palestinian prisoners are not receiving adequate medical care for their different disabilities.

The Israel Prison Service does not provide disabled and injured prisoners with necessary medication or equipment, such as wheelchairs, during their detention, the report states.

Israel is increasingly using torture against disabled prisoners, some of whom sustained permanent disabilities during violent interrogations, according to Riyad al-Ashqar, the group’s spokesperson.

One prisoner, Nahid Faraj al-Aqraa, was forced to have his left leg amputated due to medical neglect while in an Israeli prison. Al-Aqraa’s right leg had already been amputated before he was arrested.

Between 2000 and 2008, 17 Palestinian prisoners died in Israeli custody due to medical negligence, according to Addameer.

Addameer also reports that in 2014, the number of sick prisoners and detainees increased to more than 1,000.

Facebook arrests

Overnight Sunday and early Monday, Israeli forces conducted raids across the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, arresting at least 24 Palestinians.

Six of those detained were children aged from 9 to 15.

Six other Palestinians from East Jerusalem were detained over allegations of “incitement” on the social media platforms Facebook and Instagram.

Daoud al-Ghoul, 33, from the Silwan area in East Jerusalem, was among those arrested.

Ghoul is a tour guide and youth organizer, and has been subjected to years of harassment by Israel.

At the end of November, Ghoul was released from Israeli prison after serving an 18-month sentence for being affiliated with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Most Palestinian political parties are banned by Israel.

Before he was arrested, Ghoul was expelled from his home in Silwan and forced to temporarily move to Haifa, in the north of present-day Israel. He was also banned from international travel.

Punishing hunger strikers

Palestinian prisoners Anas Shadid, 19, and Ahmad Abu Fara, 29, continue into their third month on hunger strike.

On Sunday, Abu Fara reportedly fell briefly into a coma.

The Palestinian Prisoners’ Society said doctors attempted to forcibly treat him intravenously with nutrients, but when he woke up he rejected any treatment.

Last month, the Israeli high court “froze” Abu Fara’s and Shadid’s administrative detention orders, but refused to set a release date for them.

Both men have refused to end their hunger strikes until their administrative detention orders are cancelled and they are transferred to a Palestinian hospital.

Israeli prison authorities transferred Ammar Hamour, who has been on hunger strike since 21 November, to Ashkelon prison.

The Israel Prison Service has placed Hamour, 28, in a foul-smelling isolation cell that is very small and cold. This retaliatory measure is routine punishment levelled at hunger strikers.

In a recent report on administrative detention, Addameer writes that “the decision to embark on hunger strike implies refusal to comply with the prison’s structured system of constraint and privation.”

It adds that “hunger strikes serve to counter the hegemony of the occupying power.”

Addameer notes that “hunger strikes are met with violent and coercive repression” by Israel Prison Service personnel including medics, “to push detainees to end their hunger strikes.”

Among the documented tactics are raids on cells, isolating hunger strikers, threats of indefinite detention and bans on family visits.

Addameer estimates that 720 Palestinians, including women and children, are currently held in administrative detention.


Charlotte Silver

Charlotte Silver's picture

Charlotte Silver is an independent journalist and regular writer for The Electronic Intifada. She is based in Oakland, California and has reported from Palestine since 2010. Follow her on Twitter @CharESilver.