Israeli court extends Samer Issawi’s detention

Tareq and Layla Issawi at their home in the occupied East Jerusalem neighborhood of Issawiya two days after their son Samer signed an agreement with Israeli authorities to end his months-long hunger strike in Israeli prison, 24 April 2013.

Tali Mayer ActiveStills

An Israeli court on Thursday denied an appeal against a magistrate court’s decision to extend Palestinian prisoner Samer Issawi’s detention.

Issawi, 34, a former hunger striker, was rearrested on Monday night after Israeli intelligence officers took him from his brother’s residence in his hometown of Issawiyeh, a village in eastern occupied Jerusalem.

Issawi’s fate will be decided by an Israeli committee that will review the cases of former prisoners who were released during the October 2011 Gilad Shalit prisoner swap between Israel and the Palestinian political organization Hamas.

Issawi was rearrested at a military checkpoint on 7 June 2012, but later freed again after reaching an agreement with Israeli prison authorities after he refused food for 266 days.

During Israel’s ongoing military campaign against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and the besieged Gaza Strip, an estimated 566 Palestinians have been arrested, increasing the total prisoner population – previously 5,207, according to Addameer Prisoner Support Network statistics – by more than ten percent.

The military campaign began after three Israeli youths went missing while hitchhiking in the southern occupied West Bank on 12 June. Since then, Israeli occupation forces have raided cities, villages and refugee camps across the West Bank.

Of the 566 arrested, 52 were released during the Gilad Shalit prisoner swap, Addameer’s advocacy officer Gavan Kelly told The Electronic Intifada following Issawi’s rearrest. They all face the possibility of being reissued their previous sentences, which for many could mean dozens more years in prison. Issawi risks having the remaining twenty years of a thirty-year sentence reinstated. 

Another of the men, Nael Barghouti, had already served 33 years in prison by the time Palestinian prisoners were released in exchange for the Israeli soldier, Ma’an News Agency reported.  

“Barely lift his head”

Speaking to The Electronic Intifada by telephone, Jerusalem-based activist and lawyer Farah Bayadsy said that Issawi “appeared very tired during the hearing on Thursday.”

Issawi’s lawyer told his family that Israel’s intelligence services, the Shabak, have interrogated him nearly non-stop since Monday.

“He could barely lift his head,” Bayadsy said. “He looked like he hasn’t slept at all … and the security was very restrictive, more than usual.”

“The first part of the hearing lasted only fifteen minutes,” she explained. “The judge took a ten-minute break, came back and ended after another ten minutes, rejecting the appeal” against the extension of Issawi’s detention.

For Palestinians, hearings in Israeli courts often last a mere five to ten minutes and frequently conclude with a postponement.

When verdicts are reached in military courts, more than 99 percent of cases against Palestinians end with a guilty ruling, according to army documents leaked to the Israeli daily Haaretz in 2011.

Family targeted

The Issawi family has been targeted time and again by Israeli occupation authorities for arrest and imprisonment, as reported by The Electronic Intifada in May.

Samer’s sister Shireen was arrested on 6 March and is awaiting trial on charges related to passing information between Palestinian political prisoners and groups deemed “hostile” by Israel.

His brother Medhat was arrested on 30 March for activities related to prisoner solidarity and participation in the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a Palestinian political organization deemed illegal by Israel.

Both Shireen and Medhat on Thursday had hearings in the Israeli district court in Jerusalem that ended in postponement until Sunday. 

“Their mother was crying,” Bayadsy added. “It is the first day of Ramadan, the holy month [for Muslims], and she had to go through this.”


Patrick Strickland

Patrick Strickland's picture

Patrick O. Strickland is an independent journalist and frequent contributor at The Electronic Intifada. He is presently working on his first book for the London-based publishing house Zed Books. See his in-depth coverage for EI.