Late Thursday, the Israeli military’s Administrative Detention order against Hussam Khader, a Fatah activist from the Balata Refugee Camp in Nablus, was renewed for 6 months, following his appeal to the Israeli High Court of Justice the day before. Perhaps more significantly, it comes after the 15 May agreement between Israel and Palestinian prisoners that was understood to have included a decision that current Administrative Detention orders would not be extended.
Despite his appeal to the Israeli Supreme Court on Wednesday, filed on his behalf by the Ramallah-based Palestinian Prisoners’ Society/Club, and his own personal statement made in the Supreme Court in Jerusalem, Hussam Khader was informed late Thursday that his Administrative Detention will not end on 2 June, as he had hoped.
On Friday, Khader’s lawyer, Attorney Jawad Bulous, confirmed by phone the six-month renewal of the Administrative Detention order, but said he could not give more details because he was on the other line.
UPDATE: On Saturday evening, Mr. Bulous explained that the Israeli Attorney General had told him, during Hussam Khader’s Court hearing on Wednesday, that the State of Israel wanted Hussam Khader’s Administrative Detention extended for another six months — but would not be requesting a renewal after that. In the Supreme Court’s ruling, the judges noted this position of the State in their rejection of the appeal.
Mr. Bulous said that this has led him, and the Palestinian Prisoners Society/Club to conclude that it is necessary to report this matter to the Egyptian mediator who was involved in the May 15 prisoners’ agreement, and to inform the Egyptian mediator that Israel is not abiding by the terms agreed on ending the current terms of Administrative Detention for those 322 [or 308s ] Palestinian prisoner now in Israeli jails.
“Israel is totally behaving as if nothing was reached by the Egyptian mediator”, Mr. Bulous said. “I’m afraid they are not abiding with the general decision we had with the Egyptians”.
Mr Bulous noted that in two other appeals of current Administrative Detainees he took to Israel’s High Court, those of Jaafar Azzedine and of Mahmoud Ramahi, the Israeli State Attorney told the Court that there the current Administrative Detention orders of these two men, which expire in July, would not be extended.
This seems to go against the sense of the Court in its other recent decisions on Administrative Detention. And it raises a real question: What purpose can it serve for the State of Israel to tell the Court that it needs to keep Hussam Khader in Israeli jail for another six month’s term of Administrative Detention? Why did the Supreme Court just say OK? Is it OK that this next six-month’s order will be the end of it, and Hussam Khader will be released by the end of 2012? This action seems to confirm the impression that the request emanates from political echelons, for political purposes — while the Court has indicated that security reasons [only] can justify such a drastic measure.
Hussam Khader’s appeal to the Israeli Supreme Court was heard by a panel of judges headed by Justice Elyakim Rubenstein, who had also heard — and rejected — the appeals on 3 May of Thaer Halahleh and Bilal Diab, who were on the 70th day or so of hunger strikes against their Administrative Detention orders.
In his appearance for his appeal at the Israeli Supreme Court in Jerusalem, Hussam Khader called on the Court to release him, according to Attorney Bulous, because the Administrative Detention orders were “illegal, brutal, and had no justification”.
- The BBC reported on 7 May that:
“In his decision, Judge Elyakim Rubinstein expressed concern over their deteriorating condition, and referred the military authorities to a legal clause which could allow their release on medical grounds, AFP reported … Judge Rubinstein said that although the practice of administrative detention caused him ‘great discontent’, it was ‘necessary when the material regarding the petitioner is intelligence material, the exposure of which would harm its conveyor or the methods in which it was obtained’ … Such detainees’ cases could be examined by ‘a jurist acceptable to the detainees, who would receive the sufficient security approval… [and] who could examine the material on their behalf’, he added”. This BBC story is published here.
Hussam Khader was taken from his house in a raid on 2 June 2011, and was sentenced to a term of six months Administrative Detention, in which exact charges and evidence are kept secret from the detainee as well as his lawyer, so no defense is possible.
The generic charges which are always made to justify Administrative Detention are: “posing a threat to public security and safety”.
In Hussam Khader’s case, there seems to be some suggestion that he is a member or supporter of Hamas — though he is a well-known leader in Fatah.
The accusation is very strange. After earlier being banned from travel after his previous release from Israeli jail in September 2008 [a year ahead of time, on “good behavior”], he was a delegate at the 6th Fatah General Conference in Bethlehem in August 2009. He clashed in an opening session with Palesinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, and also lost in his bid for a seat on the Fateh Central Council. He then publicly backed Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, and later tried to repair his relations with Abbas.
Sometime in 2010, Khader was suddenly allowed to travel, and he went to Lebanon and then to Damascus to attend conferences. There, in the context of national reconciliation efforts, he met with Hamas figures, including Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal.
Apparently, Hussam Khader had informed Mahmoud Abbas about this in advance, and had Abbas’s blessing in the contacts — to the extent that he apparently felt that he was acting as Abbas’ representative.
These contacts were not conducted in secret, but were discussed with a number of people, including journalists who reported them in Arabic-language media.
Since his Administrative Detention order last June, Hussam Khader has been jailed in Megiddo Prison in Israel’s Galilee, just outside the northern edge of the West Bank.
In December 2011, the Administrative Detention order against Hussam Khader was extended for another six months. Upon appeal submitted by Attorney Jawad Bulous, who is under retainer to the Palestinian Prisoners’ Society, the six-month extension was reduced to three months.
Then, in February, the three-month term was extended for another three months — making it, as originally ordered, a second six-month term. This is part of what Palestinians say is the emotionally-destructively capricious cruelty of Administrative Detention, which is viewed with horror as one of the worst possible punishments of the military occupation.
After the agreement reached on 17 May to end the hunger strikes being carried out by Palestinian prisoners, it was reported that part of the agreement entailed a decision not to extend the existing Administrative Detention orders against any of the current 308 Palestinian detainees — unless there were “serious matters” contained in the secret files compiled by Israeli intelligence against them.
During the past week or so, there have been a series of scattered reports that current Administrative Detention orders were being extended.
- On 16 May, Ma’an News Agency reported that:
“Prisoners society official Qaddura Fares told Ma’an the document outlines the core issues, while further details will be agreed in talks between prisoners representatives and the Israeli authorities. The agreement is a ‘successful victory’, he said, while warning that it is ‘not clear enough’ on the issue of detention without charge … Meanwhile, Israel committed not to renew the administrative detention of all 322 [n.b. other sources than Ma’an report the number as 308] Palestinians held without charge if there is no new information that requires their imprisonment, he noted. However, Fares warned: ‘Who can check this new information? … no one can be sure’.” This Ma’an News Agency story is posted here.
That is, no one can be sure if it is solid information from real sources — or if it is concocted reports of persons who might be intent on getting revenge against the accused for one reason or another.
There are many Palestinians who believe, simply, that people like Hussam Khader are being jailed with the assent, if not the active complicity, of officials in the Palestinian Authority who want them off the streets so they cannot run as candidates if and when the next elections are held in the Palestinian territory.