Palestinian photographer set free after six months of administrative detention

Hussam Abu Alan (Photo: Sven Nackstrand, 1997)

Yesterday, photographer Husam Abu Alan was freed from Israeli prison. Abu Alan, who works for Agence France-Presse, was arrested on April 24 near Hebron and held in administrative detention since then. No charges were ever filed against him.

Danny Seaman, the head of Israel’s Government Press Office (GPO), reportedly said that Israel’s security forces “estimated that there was no longer any reason to keep him in detention and he was freed.”

Hussam Abu Alan was arrested at the Beit Anun checkpoint near Hebron on his way to cover the funeral of two Palestinians in Bani Naim. Israeli soldiers blindfolded and handcuffed him. Abu Alan’s lawyer, Mohammed Burghal, said that Abu Alan had not been interrogated during the entire time since he was arrested.

Abu Alan was placed in administrative detention for three months on 22 May. This order was renewed on 22 July by a military court.

Abu Alan’s lawyer had appealed the decision to the Israeli Supreme Court. Abu Alan was transferred from harsh conditions at the ‘Ofer detention center to Ketzion prison, in the Negev desert. One of his lawyers was able to visit him briefly on 8 October.

Two weeks ago, on 9 October, Yusri al-Jamal, a Reuters photographer, was freed. He, too, was arrested near Hebron a week after Abu Alan’s arrest. Al-Jamal was being held at the ‘Ofer detention center near Ramallah. He was arrested with Mazen Dana, a Reuters cameraman, on April 30, while they were filming wounded Palestinians in front of Hebron hospital. After being interrogated the next morning, Dana was released with apologies while Yusri al-Jamal was kept in detention.

Two other journalists are still being held without charges or trial under harsh conditions detrimental to their health. Israeli authorities have provided not a shred of evidence or any charges against Khaled Zwawi and Nizar Ramadan.

Khaled Zwawi, of the Palestinian daily El-Istiqlal, was arrested in the middle of the night at his home in Nablus on 15 April by Israeli soldiers who searched the house and seized items. He was taken to the Askalan detention center.

Nizar Ramadan, correspondent of the newspaper Al-Quds in Hebron, was arrested on 28 June while he and his family were visiting neighbours. He was subsequently transferred to Ofer prison. The same day, soldiers went to his office and seized and destroyed material there. On 6 July, the Israelis extended his detention by 18 days without explanation.

Administrative detention is a special measure that allows a person to be held for renewable periods of six months without charges, and therefore without trial. Neither the prisoners nor their lawyers have access to the case files, although they can appeal against the detention order.

At least 1,000 Palestinians were estimated, as of last month, to be held in administrative detention. About 500 are kept by Israel at Ketziot and the other half at the ‘Ofer detention camp.