May 24, 2011

PALESTINE: Writer and academic detained without charge

The Writers in Prison Committee (WiPC) of PEN International is seriously concerned about the detention of prominent Palestinian writer and academic Dr Ahmad Qatamesh, who has been held without charge by the Israeli authorities in the occupied West Bank since 21 April 2011. PEN International fears that Dr Qatamesh may be held solely for the peaceful expression of his opinions, and calls for him to be immediately and unconditionally released unless charged with a recognizable criminal offense.

Amnesty International gives the following information:
Ahmad Qatamesh was arrested by Israeli security forces at 2am on April 21 from his brother’s home in Ramallah in the occupied West Bank. He was taken to Ofer detention centre in the West Bank, where he was questioned for around 10 minutes by the Israel Security Agency (ISA). At a hearing on 28 April, a military judge agreed to extend his detention for another six days for further questioning, although none followed in this period. At another hearing on 2 May, the ISA made a request to extend his detention for a second time in order, according to his wife, to question him about his association with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). Ahmad Qatamesh denied being active in the PFLP and the military judge refused the request.

A military court official told Ahmad Qatamesh’s lawyer that he would be released at 5pm on 3 May, and a prison officer gave him the same message. However, at 8.30pm on 3 May, Ahmad Qatamesh was handed an administrative detention order signed by the West Bank military commander of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). The order appeared to have been produced for another detainee, since Ahmad Qatamesh’s name was written over correction fluid. The order was for an “extension” of administrative detention even though this is Ahmad Qatamesh’s first administrative detention order since the 1990s. The order also stated that he was an activist in Hamas, an organization with very different political views to those of the PFLP.

A military judge should review an administrative detention order within eight days and can cancel or reduce the order, though the usual practice is for the judge to confirm it. Amnesty International is concerned that Ahmad Qatamesh is being detained for the peaceful expression of his political views and therefore a prisoner of conscience. 

Ahmad Qatamesh was arrested by the IDF in 1992 and reportedly tortured. He documented his experiences in a publication called “I shall not wear your tarboosh [fez]”. Over a year later he was placed under administrative detention after a judge had ordered his release on bail. After repeated administrative detention orders, he was eventually released on April 15, 1998.

Administrative detention is an Israeli procedure under which Palestinian detainees from the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip are held without charge or trial for periods of up to six months which are renewable indefinitely. No criminal charges are filed against administrative detainees, and there is no intention of bringing them to trial. Detainees are held on the basis of “secret evidence” which the Israeli military authorities claim cannot be revealed for security reasons. The “secret evidence” on which the military authorities base their decision to issue an administrative detention order is not made available to the detainee or his/her lawyer and the detainee cannot challenge the reasons for his/her detention.

The PFLP is a left-wing Palestinian political party which also has an armed wing. 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. To Amnesty International’s knowledge, he has never been involved with PFLP-affiliated armed groups or advocated violence. (UA: 127/11 Index: MDE 15/024/2011 Issue Date: 06 May 2011)

During the 1990s, PEN International campaigned against Ahmad Qatamesh’s administrative detention. After he was released in 1998, he studied political science and has since lectured in the humanities department at al-Quds University in Jerusalem.

TAKE ACTION - Sign the petition below to send the following appeals

  • Expressing concern that Ahmad Qatamesh is being detained for the peaceful expression of his political views and calling on the Israeli authorities to release Ahmad Qatamesh immediately and unconditionally unless he is to be promptly charged with a recognizable criminal offence and brought to trial in full conformity with international fair trial standards
  • Seeking assurances of his well-being in detention.
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