LONDON: Human Rights Watch has called on Israel to release 37-year-old French-Palestinian human rights lawyer Salah Hamouri and reinstate his residency status in his home city of Jerusalem.
Hamouri was arrested on March 7 at his home in East Jerusalem based on secret evidence, and has had no charges brought against him since, HRW said.
His residency was revoked on Oct. 17 last year on grounds of “breach(ing) allegiance” to Israel, and for his alleged association with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. He was accused of “hostile, dangerous and significant activity against the state of Israel.”
HRW said under international law, occupying countries are forbidden from compelling occupied peoples to swear allegiance to them.
Hamouri worked for the Palestinian prisoners’ rights group Addameer, which was banned by Israel in 2021 less than a week after his arrest, and branded “terrorist” by the authorities. He now faces possible deportation to France.
Omar Shakir, the Israel and Palestine director at HRW, said: “Israeli authorities have detained Salah Hamouri without trial or charges for months, outlawed the human rights group he works for, and revoked his legal status in Jerusalem.
“Hamouri’s plight embodies the struggle of Palestinian human rights defenders challenging Israel’s apartheid and persecution.”
The Israel Defense Forces initially detained Hamouri for three months from March 10 based on secret information about his alleged involvement with the PFLP, and extended the detention on June 6. It is set to expire on Sept. 5, but the detention order can be renewed.
An appeal against his imprisonment lodged by Hamouri was dismissed by an appellate military court on Aug. 4.
No evidence has ever been presented against him, and his incarceration is a violation of his right to freedom of association, HRW said.
In December last year, Hamouri had his health insurance terminated on grounds of having left the country, and because he could no longer prove his residency in East Jerusalem.
In July, Hamouri wrote to French President Emmanuel Macron about his case, which led to him being designated “high security” and transferred out of the Occupied Territories to Hadarim Prison in Israel — another breach of international law.
Addameer says he was shackled, frequently searched and placed in a holding cage while in transit in Ramleh Prison, Israel.
His parents said after his arrest, mobile phones and a laptop were confiscated from Hamouri. In November, Amnesty International confirmed reports by human rights groups that his phone, along with the phones of other Palestinian human rights campaigners, had been hacked using Israeli company NSO Group’s Pegasus software.
Israeli rights group HaMoked, which is representing Hamouri, said his deportation challenge will be heard in February 2023.
Israel deported his wife, French national Elsa Lefort, in 2016, banning her from returning for 10 years on security grounds.
This separated her from her husband and children, and has prevented her from visiting Hamouri in detention.
He was previously jailed between 2005 and 2011, including three years of pre-trial detention, by a military court in relation to a plot to assassinate the former chief rabbi of Israel — a case that former French Foreign Minister Alain Juppé said lacked evidence, and which HRW said fell short of acceptable standards of justice. Hamouri was also detained separately by Israel from August 2017 to September 2018.
The day before his arrest earlier this year, he was quoted in Jacobin magazine as saying: “These actions are directed toward one single aim: Forcing me to leave Palestine.”
In April, he filed a criminal complaint in France against NSO Group, and in May he filed a complaint with the International Criminal Court against the Israeli government.
Israel held 671 Palestinians in administrative detention at the start of August, according to HaMoked.
HRW called on Israel to end the practice — saying it far exceeds any provision for detention by occupying forces set out in international law — and to stop its campaign against Hamouri.
Shakir said: “Through Salah Hamouri, Israeli authorities are escalating their all-out assault on Palestinian civil society and seeking to set a dangerous precedent that would allow them to more expeditiously force out Palestinians. French authorities should press Israel to stop harassing Hamouri.”