RAMALLAH: France has condemned Israel’s expulsion of French Palestinian human rights lawyer Salah Hamouri, who had been held in an Israeli prison without charge since March after being accused of security offenses.
Hamouri, 37, had been held in Israel under a controversial practice known as administrative detention, which allows suspects to be detained for renewable periods of up to six months.
He arrived at Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport on Sunday morning — the culmination of a lengthy judicial saga after his deportation.
“I have changed location but the fight continues,” Hamouri said at the airport, where he was welcomed by his wife Elsa, politicians, NGO representatives and supporters of the Palestinian cause.
The former prisoner was deported after Israel revoked his Jerusalem residency two weeks ago based on allegations that he was active in the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, or PFLP, according to the Israeli Interior Ministry.
His father, Hassan Hamouri, described the deportation as a “war crime of the first degree.”
In remarks to Arab News, Hassan accused Israeli Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked, who signed the decision to deport Salah two weeks ago, of being a “failure” and “wanting to show an achievement” before leaving government after losing recent elections.
Hamouri expressed his disappointment that France did not make efforts to prevent his son’s deportation.
He said that it was “not enough” that the French Embassy and consulate did not inform the Hamouri family of the deportation decision on Sunday morning, but instead turned off their phones so that it was impossible to contact them.
Salah’s mother, a French national, told Arab News that she felt her country had disappointed the family by abandoning the 37-year-old.
France’s Foreign Ministry said that the deportation was “against the law,” adding that officials had been working “to ensure that Salah Hamouri’s rights are respected, that he benefits from all means of recourse and that he can lead a normal life in Jerusalem, where he was born, resides and wishes to live.”
A statement said: “We condemn today the Israeli authorities’ decision, against the law, to expel Salah Hamouri to France.”
It expressed France’s “opposition to the expulsion of a Palestinian resident of East Jerusalem, an occupied territory under the Fourth Geneva Convention.”
Palestinian officials expressed their concern that the Hamouri deportation would set a precedent that Israel would use to relocate other Palestinian prisoners.
“Deporting a Palestinian from their homeland for breach of allegiance to the state of Israel is a dangerous precedent and a gross violation of basic rights,” Israel-based human rights organization HaMoked said in a statement.
HaMoked previously appealed the decision to revoke Hamouri’s residency and requested an injunction to prevent the deportation. The Supreme Court rejected both pleas.
The organization said that it would file a new petition to the High Court once the new Israeli government takes power in the coming weeks.
Hamouri was born in Jerusalem to a Palestinian father and French mother. He was brought up and taught in Palestinian schools and universities.
Israeli authorities began to pursue him several years ago, with repeated arrests and summons, preventing him from entering the West Bank and deporting his French wife to her country “despite the legality of her presence” in Jerusalem.
Hamouri was rearrested and his administrative detention renewed three consecutive times at the beginning of this year.
With the approaching end of the detention period, Hamouri was informed of the decision to deport him to France.
He was transferred from Hadarim Prison to Ben Gurion Airport on Sunday morning.
“During his life, he organized, incited and planned to carry out terrorist attacks himself and for the organization against citizens and prominent figures in Israel,” an Israeli Interior Ministry statement claimed.
In a voice message posted on the Instagram account of the official Palestinian civil society campaign for Hamouri, the lawyer said that he was being “forcibly deported and uprooted from my homeland.”
Hamouri added in the message: “I leave you today from prison to exile. But rest assured that I will always remain the person you know. Always loyal to you and your freedom.”
The 37-year-old, who had been in the Israeli prison since March on administrative detention without formal charges, has denied involvement in terrorist organizations.
Human rights groups have condemned Israel’s actions.
Hamouri has always maintained his innocence.
In 2005, he was tried and convicted of working on a plan to assassinate Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, founder of the Shas ultra-orthodox political party.
He was released in 2011 as part of an exchange of 1,027 Palestinian and other Arab prisoners held by Israel as part of a deal to free Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, whom Hamas kidnapped in 2006.
He had since been living and working as a lawyer in Jerusalem, including working as a human rights lawyer for Addameer, an organization that helps Palestinian prisoners. Israel outlawed Addameer in a move condemned by UN officials.
The Palestinian National Initiative Movement condemned the deportation of Hamouri.
“This disgraceful criminal behavior is a dangerous precedent that contradicts all human and international norms and is a war crime committed by Israel,” said the movement.
The condemnation came as PLO Executive Committee Secretary-General Hussein Al-Sheikh said that calls from extremist Israeli groups to storm Al-Aqsa Mosque to light a menorah aimed to “perpetuate the temporal and spatial division” of the mosque.
Extremist groups began storming Al-Aqsa Mosque in large numbers on Sunday.
The Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that it was continuing international political, diplomatic and legal action to end Israeli violations, in full coordination with Jordan.
Also on Sunday, hundreds of Palestinians took part in the funeral of the two brothers, Mohammed, 37, and Muhannad Youssef Matir, 19, in Qalandia camp.
They were run over and killed by an Israeli settler near the Za’tara military checkpoint south of Nablus on Saturday evening.
The incident took place as the two brothers stood on the side of a road to repair a tire, accompanied by members of their family.
Mourners at the funeral chanted angry slogans condemning the Israeli occupation and settler movement.
A comprehensive strike to mourn the death of the brothers spread to the town of Kufur Aqab and Qalandia camp.
Israeli authorities described the deaths as an unintentional traffic accident.