The Palestinian prisoners advocacy group Addameer announced on Twitter yesterday that Israel had renewed administrative detention orders against Palestinian writer Ahmad Qatamesh for an additional six months. This is the third consecutive administrative detention order issued against Qatamesh.
The Palestinian writer and academic has been held without charge since 21 April 2011, when Israeli soldiers raided his family’s home, holding his family members hostage at gunpoint until Qatamesh, who was not home at the time, surrendered himself.
Ahmad’s daughter, Hanin Ahmad Qatamesh, described in harrowing detail how Israeli soldiers raided her family’s home in the middle of the night, searching for her father, in an article for The Electronic Intifada.
Ahmad Qatamesh’s wife Suha Barghouti, a human rights activist, told The Electronic Intifada: "It’s so clear that he is there [in Israeli prison] because of his ideas and political activism. He is a prisoner of conscience and he is there because of political reasons."
In September of last year, Amnesty International said Ahmad Qatamesh may be a prisoner of conscience, and the organization expressed concerns that "he may be detained solely for the peaceful expression of his political views."
News of Israel’s renewal of the detention orders against Qatamesh comes on the heels of a historic hunger strike made by Palestinian administrative detainee Khader Adnan. Adnan waged a 66-day-long strike to protest his being detained without charge. He ended his strike after Israel agreed to not renew his detention orders and release Adnan on 17 April.
Another Palestinian administrative detainee, Hana al-Shalabi, is entering her twelfth day of hunger strike. Like Adnan, this is not the first time Israel has arrested her and held her without charge or trial; she was arrested in September 2009 and subjected to solitary confinement, abuse and sexual harassment, according to an Addameer profile of al-Shalabi. A military court hearing confirming the administrative detention order against al-Shalabi is due to be held later today, according to Addameer.
There are more than 300 Palestinians currently being held without charge or trial under administrative detention orders, including at least twenty out of 132 members of the elected Palestinian Legislative Council.
Addameer has a toolkit for activists to put pressure on Israel to release Qatamesh, and encourages supporters to write to Qatamesh in prison (Ahmad Qatamesh, Ofer Prison, Givat Zeev, PO Box 3007, via Israel).
Addameer also has a profile of Qatamesh which includes information on how Israel had previously been held in administrative detention for five and a half years, and the impact that his imprisonment has had on his family:
Ahmad was first arrested in 1992 in front of his three-year-old daughter. Following his arrest, he was detained for more than a year - during which time he was tortured - before being placed in administrative detention in October 1993, despite the Military Judge ordering his release. Ahmad’s detention orders were repeatedly renewed for the next five and a half years, despite a lack of evidence purported against him. Due to pressure from international campaigns, Ahmad was finally released in 1998, becoming one of the longest-serving administrative detainees held without charge in Israeli prison. His memoir, I shall not wear your tarboosh [fez], accounts his experiences of being tortured while in detention.
Ahmad’s extensive detention and arrests have been extremely difficult for his wife, Suha, a board member of Addameer and the Palestine Red Crescent Society, and his daughter, Haneen, a university student at the American University in Cairo. Suha recalls of his most recent arrest, "A few days ago, when they arrested my husband, I found out that there are very deep marks on my daughter’s spirit. She was three years old at that moment [when they arrested her father in 1992], and the marks are still there. When the soldiers told her that [they] arrested her father again, she almost collapsed." Suha and Haneen hoped that Ahmad would be released before Haneen’s graduation in January. The event was very important to Ahmad, particularly because he feels as though he was not able to watch his daughter grow up for much of her childhood.
More than ten years after he was released from his previous detention, it had not occurred to Ahmad’s wife Suha that they might have to suffer through the same ordeal once again. The torment of his arrest is made even worse by the uncertainty of administrative detention and not being able to prepare for his release, as the family is already all-too-familiar with the prison authorities’ practice of renewing administrative detention orders every six months. She condemns his imprisonment as a prisoner of conscience, arrested for his ideas and political activism, and calls on the international community to continue to assert pressure on his behalf.
Administrative detention is a procedure that allows the Israeli military to hold detainees indefinitely on secret evidence without charging them or allowing them to stand trial. In the occupied Palestinian West Bank, the Israeli army is authorized to issue administrative detention orders against Palestinian civilians on the basis of Military Order 1651. This order empowers military commanders to detain an individual for up to six month renewable periods if they have "reasonable grounds to presume that the security of the area or public security require the detention." On or just before the expiry date, the detention order is frequently renewed. This process can be continued indefinitely.