Free Ahmad Qatamesh, Israel's longest-held administrative detention prisoner

Steven Katsineris with a piece that initially featured in Green Left Weekly on 24 September 2013. Steven Katsineris is an Australian free-lance writer of articles on Palestine, Cyprus and the rest of the Middle East region, political prisoners and human rights, environmental and social issues. He has been actively involved in the Palestine solidarity movement for over forty years. Steven lives with his family in Melbourne, Australia.

  • 'Ahmad Qatamesh is a prisoner of conscience who is being detained solely for expressing non-violent political beliefs. His continued detention is arbitrary and he must be immediately and unconditionally released' - Ann Harrison, Amnesty International.

Ahmad Qatamesh  is a 62 year old Palestinian University academic, writer and political activist who has been held in an Israeli jail under administrative detention, (which is Israel’s policy of holding people without charge or trial for indefinite periods) for more than two years. Ahmad Qatamesh was arrested at his brother’s home by Israeli soldiers on April 21, 2011 and has since had his administrative detention extended seven times by Israeli military courts, the last time being the 27th August 2013. No justification or reasons were given for the extension of his illegal imprisonment.

As a leading human rights activist and political writer Ahmad Qatamesh was sought after by the Israeli army for his opposition to the occupation and lived underground for 17 years. He was arrested in 1992 and spent almost 6 years in Israeli jails in administrative detention without charge until released in 1998. He wrote a memoir of his jail experiences, in a book entitled Shall Not Wear Your Tarboosh (Fez) which included a section on him being subjected to torture. He was the longest held Palestinian administrative detainee held in Israeli jails.

Amnesty International has declared Ahmad to be a “prisoner of conscience” held because of his political writings and demanded his immediate and unconditional release. According to AI there is ‘no apparent reason to hold him’ and AI ‘believes he is being held to suppress his views and to deter political activities by other Palestinian left-wing activists.’

Administrative detention allows Israel to hold people in prison indefinitely on the basis on alleged secret evidence that the military courts withholds from the detainee and their lawyers. The Israeli policy of administrative detention violates International Law and is a flagrant violation of basic human rights to know why one is detained and to be given the opportunity to defend oneself. Ahmad Qatamesh is one of over 160 Palestinian political prisoners currently being held in administrative detention by Israel. Ahmad Qatamesh and his lawyer have repeatedly demanded an end to the policy of administrative detention and his release or for detailed reasons to be given for his continued imprisonment.

It is also very difficult for relatives from the occupied West Bank to obtain permits to visit detained Palestinian prisoners like Ahmad Qatamesh who are being held in Israel. As well, according to the Geneva Convention individuals under occupation should be held within the occupied territory, not sent to another territory or country.

The Israeli secret service Shin Bet accuses Qatamesh of being a leading member of the Palestinian resistance group, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), but Qatamesh has consistently maintained this is untrue and an excuse by Israel to keep him imprisoned. His lawyer stated that Ahmad Qatamesh 'has always said that he is a writer and politician and that he will struggle politically, not violently, against the Israeli occupation and against the so-called peace processes.'

The real reasons for Ahmad Qatamesh’s arrest and continued imprisonment are his articulate, passionate and steadfast commitment to his people’s just struggle and his political beliefs, including his support for a one state solution to the conflict and his calls for popular civil resistance to the brutal Israeli occupation. The Israeli military forces fear the example of Ahmad Qatamesh’s views and the spreading peaceful disobedience campaign against Israel in the Palestinian territories and want to deter other activists following Qatamesh’s ideas.

 Amnesty International statement on Qatamesh’s imprisonment by Israel:

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

The world community is generally very concerned about human rights abuses in many parts of the world, yet countries that publicly uphold the observance of human rights, seem to ignore the widespread and cruel human rights violations that regularly occur in Israel. And while such mistreatment in other repressive states frequently gets media publicity and firm action taken by countries disturbed by such oppressive behaviour the human rights abuses committed by Israel on Palestinians are frequently neglected. In the liberal West standing up for human and civil rights is a matter of principle, except in the case of Israel, then moral righteousness and justice vanish and double standards and hypocrisy rules.

Israeli military courts and the use of administrative detention are not a just or respectable legal system. Ahmad Qatamesh and all other administrative detainees should be immediately freed from Israeli prisons, or charged with specific offences and given a fair trial in a proper court of law where international standards of justice apply.

What Can Be Done to Help Ahmad Qatamesh?

Please write letters to the newspapers and other publications and put messages on Facebook to help make other people conscious of this unjust case and ask others to write letters and post messages too. This increases awareness of the situation of Ahmed Qatamesh and the other political prisoners and also increases the pressure on Israel to stop these cruel practices, as the Israeli military forces don’t like light being shed on these human rights abuses. Also write to MP’s urging them to take up this issue and pressure Israel to release Ahmad Qatamesh and other administrative detainees and put an end to this illegal, unfair and arbitrary system.

  • Write to Ahmad Qatamesh @ Ahmad Qatamesh, Ofer Prison, Givat Zeev, P.O. Box 3007, via Israel.

1 comment:

  1. Its called oppression , keep them locked up so as they can't be heard.

    Naturally he has committed no crime and should not be incarcerated.

    The British Secretary of State Theresa Villiers is doing the same in the wee 6c, Martin Corey has now been held for 3 and a half years just on secret hearsay evidence which Martin Nor His Solicitor know nothing about .

    Sinn Féin Assembly member Raymond McCartney said that British Secretary of State Theresa Villiers tried to wash her hands of the case