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Guilty until proven guilty

On 26 August, 2014 Dr. Yousef Abdul Haq, a 73 year old retired Professor, affiliated to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), was arrested at his home in Nablus by the Israeli Army. The soldiers arrived at his house at 2.30am, under the cover of darkness, and ransacked his home, which he shares with his only daughter.

Dr. Yousef was taken and transferred to Huwarra Military Camp, south of Nablus city. A week later he was brought before an Israeli Military Court where an Israeli judge approved an application to detain Dr. Yousef without charge, for 4 months. The process through which Palestinians are sentenced without trial is known as administrative detention. And it is another glaring example of how Israel performs like a democracy only for those who belong to a very specific ethnic and religious group.

Administrative detention is a powerful and repressive weapon in the Israeli arsenal as it allows for the detention of an individual for multiple and consecutive 6 month periods – i.e. indefinitely – without ever being charged; let alone convicted. Due process, the need to provide evidence, fair trial and the custom of innocent until proven otherwise, are just excess baggage to a system which is organised specifically to prevent justice.

During an administrative trial, the Israeli army presents the judge with a so-called ‘secret dossier’, which the defendants counsel is not privy to. The defendent is left unaware of what the charge against them is, and sits and watches as the judge decides on a sentence – often reducing the number slightly from 6 months to provide a veneer of legality. Though in reality this makes no difference since the sentences are often extended at a later date. No administrative detainees are guarenteed a release date and some spend years inside; often having their sentence extended on the final day of  to torture them psychologically with the possibility of release.

The day after Dr. Yousef was arrested, the Israeli army invaded the village of Burin, south of Nablus, and after shooting tear gas and sound grenades into the local secondary school, kidnapped Ghassan Najjar. Ghassan runs a community centre in the village and is looked up to by many as one who is vocal and active against the illegal occupation. He is also a husband, a father of a one year old boy and a friend to many inside and outside of Palestine. Ghassan was initially taken to Huwarra Military Camp before being moved on to Petah Tikva on 31st August for a secret trial, which his lawyer was not allowed to attend. His detention was extended for a further 7 days, during which time Ghassan will undoubtedly be subjected to many forms of torture during his interrogations. Although quite probably none he hasn’t already experienced – following his month long detention there in 2010.

To follow and support the campaign for the release of Ghassan and Dr. Yousef, click on this link to Solidarity for Free Palestine (SFP).

Dr Yousef
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Twitter: @SchNEWS