As feared, Israel issues administrative detention order against Qatamesh

Suha Barghouti and Ahmad Qatamesh (photo courtesy of Suha Barghouti)

The Palestinian human rights group Addameer issued an urgent appeal today (full text below), one day after Israeli military authorities issued an administrative detention order against Ahmad Qatamesh, the Palestinian writer and political activist.

According to the Addameer appeal, the Israeli authorities hastily slapped together the administrative detention order by forging his name on someone else’s order. The order also states that Qatamesh is suspected of being a Hamas activist, despite his historical association with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine — something the Israeli Security Agency itself asserted only last week.

Just two days ago, The Electronic Intifada published this moving account by Ahmad’s daughter, Hanin Ahmad Qatamesh, narrating how she was held hostage by Israeli soldiers after they stormed her house and demanded the surrender of her father.

Last week, EI published this interview with Ahmad’s wife, Suha Barghouti, herself a human rights activist. In her article, Jillian Kestler-D’Amours reported:

This is not the first time that Qatamesh has been arrested. In the early 1990s, Israeli forces arrested him in front of his daughter, who was three years old at the time. After suffering from mistreatment and torture at the hands of Israeli security forces and intelligence officers, he was detained for almost six years under an administrative detention order.

The full text of Addameer’s urgent appeal, issued today, follows:

Urgent Appeal: Addameer Demands Annulment of Ahmad Qatamish’s Administrative Detention Order
 
Ramallah, 4 May 2011 – At 8:30 pm on 3 May 2011, the Israeli military authorities issued an administrative detention order against Ahmad Qatamish, the renowned Palestinian writer and political scientist, despite informing him and his lawyer only hours earlier that he would be released that day. Addameer is outraged by this decision and deems Mr. Qatamish’s arrest to be a case of arbitrary detention motivated solely by his opinions and peaceful activism.
 
On 4 May 2011, Addameer obtained a copy of Mr. Qatamish’s administrative detention order, which disgracefully appears to be a copy of someone else’s detention order that has been tampered with to include Mr. Qatamish’s name. This is clear evidence that these orders are not actually issued by the Israeli military commander of the West Bank after careful review of all the evidence against the suspect in question, but rather orchestrated by the Israeli Security Agency (ISA) and the military prosecution, in this case to keep Mr. Qatamish in prison despite lack of evidence against him. Furthermore, the order actually calls for an extension of his administrative detention, despite the fact that this is Mr. Qatamish’s first administrative detention in years. It also states that Mr. Qatamish is suspected of being a Hamas activist, a gross misrepresentation since he has historically been associated with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). The claim is all the more absurd since only last week, the ISA itself accused Mr. Qatamish of currently being a PFLP member, a claim that he denies.
 
Certain that they would be reunited with him shortly, Mr. Qatamish’s relatives spent the evening of 3 May 2011 waiting for him at the gates of Ofer Prison, where he is currently held, after the Ofer Military Court informed Mr. Qatamish’s lawyer, Mahmoud Hassan, at 12:00 pm that his client would be released by 5:00 pm. At approximately 5:00 pm, Mr. Qatamish himself was also given the same news by the Israeli Prison Service. Only half an hour later, however, Mr. Hassan was told that his client’s detention would in fact be extended and was asked to come to court. Mr. Hassan immediately called the military prosecutor in Mr. Qatamish’s case, who contradicted this information, insisting that Mr. Qatamish was in fact going to be released. At 7:45 pm, after more than two hours of confusion and uncertainty, the military court informed Mr. Hassan that a final decision would be made by 9 or 9:30 pm. At 8:30 pm, however, he was informed that the Israeli military commander of the West Bank had issued an administrative detention order against Mr. Qatamish but was given no further information. Mr. Hassan and Mr. Qatamish’s family had to wait until 11 pm to find out from the Israeli Prison Service that the period of Mr. Qatamish’s administrative detention had been set for six months, but no date for the detention order’s review has been set yet. Because administrative detention is a form of detention without charge or trial, it is likely that Mr. Qatamish and his lawyer will never know what the evidence against him is.
 
Sadly, Mr. Qatamish’s family was not the only victim of the Israeli authorities’ manipulations and complete disregard on 3 May 2011, as other prisoners and detainees due to be released that day were made to wait until a decision was reached in Mr. Qatamish’s case before being reunited with their families waiting for them at the prison gates.
 
Mr. Qatamish was arrested by the Israeli Occupying Forces at 2 a.m. on 21 April 2011 and his detention was extended on 28 April 2011 for six days and set to expire on 3 May 2011. In the two weeks that Mr. Qatamish has spent in detention, he has only been interrogated once for 10 minutes, when he was first arrested. This supports Addameer’s conviction that Mr. Qatamish is only being targeted for his writings and peaceful activism and not for any imperative “security” reasons as claimed by the Israeli authorities and as is necessary to justify the use of administrative detention under international humanitarian law.
 
Addameer calls on the international community, particularly representatives of the European Union, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and international human rights organizations, to intervene with the Israeli authorities to demand Mr. Qatamish’s immediate release.

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Maureen Clare Murphy

Maureen Clare Murphy's picture

Maureen Clare Murphy is the managing editor of The Electronic Intifada and lives in Chicago.