Amnesty calls on Israel to release Palestinian academic

Published Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Amnesty International has called on Israel to release a 60-year-old Palestinian academic who has been held without trial for a year.

Writer and political scientist Ahmad Qatamesh has been detained since 21 April 2011 under Israel's administrative detention law, which enables Israel to hold Palestinians for up to six months without charge or trial.

The period of detention can be renewed at the end, effectively allowing Israel to detain Palestinians indefinitely, while the accused is not able to access evidence Israeli authorities are supposedly holding against him.

Qatamesh's sentence was renewed on March 1 for another six months, with the military prosecutor due to confirm the detention in the coming days.

Israel claims Qatamesh is associated with the military wing of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) but has produced no evidence for the claims.

Prior to his arrest Qatamesh frequently wrote and protested about Israel's continuing human rights violations.

He has been interrogated for no more than 10 minutes by the Israel Security Agency (ISA) since being detained, his lawyer said, suggesting Israel has little desire to extract information from him.

Amnesty called on Israel to release or charge the father of one, referring to him as a “prisoner of conscience.”

“While Ahmad Qatamesh was a political and intellectual supporter of the PFLP in the 1990s, he says he has not been involved with them for 13 years," a statement from the group said.

"To Amnesty International’s knowledge, he has never been involved with PFLP-affiliated armed groups or advocated violence."

“It is Amnesty International’s assessment that the reasons for Ahmad Qatamesh’s arrest and continued administrative detention are his peaceful expression, in his writing and teaching, of non-violent political views and the fact that he is considered a mentor for left-wing students and political activists, some of whom may be affiliated to the PFLP,” it added.

“As such, his detention may be part of the Israeli authorities’ strategy to put pressure on the PFLP organization. Therefore, Amnesty International considers him to be a prisoner of conscience and is calling for his immediate and unconditional release.”

Qatamesh was detained in 1992 and eventually held under administrative detention orders until 1998, following a prolonged international campaign.

His memoir, "I shall not wear your tarboosh [fez]," accounts his experiences of being tortured while in detention.

Israel is currently holding over 300 Palestinians using administrative detention laws, including the female hunger striker Hana Shalabi, who has been without food for 21 days.

Last week Shalabi's brother told Al-Akhbar that she would continue to refuse food until she is freed, raising fears in Israel of more damaging media coverage.

In February prisoner Khader Adnan's 66-day hunger strike led to international condemnation of the administrative detention system and forced Israel to strike a deal with the prisoner.

Amnesty and Human Rights Watch have condemned Israel's administrative detention as a violation of international law.

(Al-Akhbar)

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