LONDON: Palestinian-French human rights lawyer Salah Hamouri, who has been imprisoned without charge by Israeli authorities for six months, has gone on hunger strike in protest.
Hamouri was arrested on March 7 at his home in East Jerusalem. No charges have been filed against him but his detention order has been extended until at least early December based on undisclosed evidence, The Guardian reported.
A member of the #JusticeforSalah campaign told the newspaper that negotiations with Israeli authorities on Wednesday for the lawyer’s release were unsuccessful.
Hamouri, along with 29 other detainees in Israeli prisons, reportedly began an indefinite hunger strike on Sunday to protest against administrative detention. This is an Israeli practice, commonly used against Palestinians who are subject to the military justice system rather than civil justice, under which suspects can be detained for renewable six-month terms without charge or any access to the evidence against them, on the grounds that they might break the law in future in released.
Israeli authorities say the practice is necessary to prevent terrorist attacks and protect sensitive intelligence sources. However, human rights campaigners argue that Israeli authorities use it excessively and it violates the right of suspects to due process
Israel is currently holding 743 administrative detainees, the highest number since 2008, according to Israeli human rights group HaMoked.
In July, 37-year-old Hamouri was transferred to a maximum-security prison called Hadarim, where he was placed in a tiny isolation cell. It came after he wrote a letter to French President Emmanuel Macron asking for the help of the French government, according to #JusticeforSalah.
His wife, French national Elsa Lefort, and their two children, who live in France, have been prevented from visiting or even speaking to Hamouri on the telephone since his arrest.
Hamouri has been imprisoned by Israel a number of times, including a seven-year sentence between 2005 and 2011 for his alleged role in an assassination plot against a chief rabbi.
While he maintained his innocence throughout three years of pretrial detention, he eventually accepted a plea bargain to avoid a 14-year jail sentence or deportation to France, which would have probably have resulted in him losing his Israeli-issued right to residency in Jerusalem.
In 2016, Lefort, who was pregnant at the time, was deported after arriving at Tel Aviv’s airport and barred from entering Israel for 10 years.
Hammouri’s Jerusalem residency rights were revoked in October 2021. The reason given was a “breach of allegiance” to the Israeli state, based on undisclosed evidence. This was a legal first, according to the Guardian. The residency case is due to be heard again in February next year.
“Salah has never stopped being vocal about the occupation. He is always speaking at events in France and tours, talking about the conditions of political prisoners and other violations,” a spokesperson for #JusticeforSalah told the Guardian.
“Treating him like this is a way to try and silence him, to break him, and send a message to other human rights defenders.”
In recent years, several Palestinians have gone on long-term hunger strikes to protest against their administrative detention. In most cases, Israel eventually released them after their health deteriorated significantly.
The most recent high-profile Palestinian hunger striker was Khalil Awawdeh, who was at risk of dying and suffered neurological damage as a result of a near-six-month hunger strike. He ended his protest in August after Israel agreed to release him when his current administrative detention order expires.