05/11/2010

Israel: Protest against detention of Ameer Makhoul


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Hundreds of Israeli Palestinians protested against detention of Ameer Makhoul

TEL AVIV - The pre-dawn arrest of a prominent Israeli-Palestinian human rights activist has this week become a rallying cry for the country’s Palestinian minority.

Yesterday, hundreds of Israeli Palestinians protested against last week’s detention of Ameer Makhoul, protesting that it was part of an escalating campaign to crack down on Israel’s Palestinian citizens. Mr Makhoul is an outspoken critic of Israel and one of the key backers of a new Palestinian boycott on goods produced in Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank.
The demonstrators included his wife, who held up a placard plastered with a photo of her husband along with a demand to free him. 
Among the protesters were Israeli-Palestinian legislators, including Jamal Zahalka, who declared the arrest was an attempt to “put us into a political ghetto” and pledged that “major protests were on their way”.

Israeli police and the country’s Shin Bet internal security service yesterday partly lifted a gag order on Mr Makhoul’s arrest, saying that he was suspected of spying for Lebanon’s Hizbollah militia, against which Israel fought a month-long war in mid-2006. 
A statement from the Shin Bet said Mr Makhoul, along with another Israeli-Palestinian activist, Omar Sayid, who was arrested in late April, were detained for “severe security offences including contacting a Hizbollah agent”. The two men have not yet been charged, according to a police spokesman. Colleagues of Mr Makhoul, the general director of Ittijah, the umbrella group for Palestinian non-governmental organisations in Israel, and the brother of a former member of the country’s parliament, deny the accusations. Hussein Abu Hussein, a lawyer and the chairman of Ittijah, called the suspicion “ridiculous” and said in an interview: “It’s true that he has connections with activists in the Arab world, but also in Europe and in the US and only in the field of human rights. I have no doubt that he has no relations with Hizbollah.” According to Mr Hussein, the arrest of Mr Makhoul, who is not known for advocating violence, was Israel’s way of relaying a message to its Palestinian citizens. He added: “Israel is trying to show that no one is immune and that he should lower his voice against Israeli practices inside the green line and in the occupied territories.”

Mr Makhoul was detained at around 3am last Thursday at his home in the northern Israeli city of Haifa. Despite the gag order imposed immediately on the case, nine human rights organisations have publicised it by swiftly issuing a joint statement demanding his release. 
According to the statement, 16 Shin Bet agents were accompanied by police officers as they raided Mr Makhoul’s home, citing unspecified security reasons. They confiscated documents, maps, the family’s four mobile phones, two laptops, hard drives from the desktop computers of Mr Makhoul’s two teenage daughters, a camera as well as his wife’s tape recorder.

A similar raid took place at the same time on Ittijah’s offices nearby. Soon after, Mr Makhoul’s detention was extended for six days and he was denied access to a lawyer for at least two days, the groups said. The arrest came just weeks after Israel’s right-wing, ultra-Orthodox interior minister signed an order prohibiting Mr Makhoul from leaving the country for two months, saying his exit “poses a serious threat to the security of the state”, according to the groups’ statement. Palestinian groups claim Mr Makhoul’s arrest reflects a stepped-up Israeli campaign against human rights defenders in general and Palestinian activists in particular. Along with arrests, the campaign also includes raids, deportations, travel bans and visa denials, they say. 
Abeer Baker, a lawyer for Adalah, a Haifa-based legal group advocating for Palestinian rights, and which is representing Mr Makhoul and Mr Sayid, said: “These actions are the extreme aspects of the criminal law – they should be used exceptionally, but they are used very often against Arab leaders in Israel. This is a way to limit our rights to criticise publicly.” Ms Baker said the campaign has intensified since the predominantly right-wing, pro-settler government of the Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took office more than a year ago. She added: “It’s a political attack in which they use emergency regulations, criminal law and the most extreme provisions of the Israeli law.” 
Masud Ganaim, a Palestinian legislator in Israel’s parliament, lambasted the arrest in an e-mail as a “clear proof of racism … for whomever claims Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East”.

Indeed, Mr Makhoul’s arrest is only the most recent example of such actions against Arab citizens. 
According to Ms Baker, a non-governmental organisation registered in Israel and advocating for the rights of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails was shut three months ago by the Israeli defence ministry, which had cited security reasons.  Such actions are drawing more support among Israelis, who, according to analysts, are increasingly drifting to the right. Indeed, a poll released in late April by Tel Aviv University showed that more than half of Jewish Israelis believed human rights groups that exposed immoral behaviour by Israel should not be allowed to operate freely, and that the government permitted too much freedom of expression.

http://www.humtum18.com/world-news/hundreds-of-israeli-palestinians-protested-against-detention-of-ameer-makhoul/


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ACTION
Join the protest at the next court hearing of Ameer Makhoul, a Palestinian human rights defender and serves as the General Director of Ittijah – The Union of Arab Community-Based Associations and Chairman of the Public Committee for the Protection of Political Freedoms in the framework of the High Follow-up Committee for the Arab Citizens of Israel.
When:Wednesday, 12 May 2010 , 10 am (court hearing: 10:30 am)
Where: First Instance Court at Petah TikvaBazel Str. 1, at the corner of Shimshon Streetin front of Rabin Hospital – Bellinson
For a google map see: http://bit.ly/afSo7d)
For more details, please contact: Adv.Hussein Abu Hussein, Ittijah, Chairperson, 054-5428860

BACKGROUND

On May 6, 2010 at 6 am the Israeli General Security Service accompanied by Israeli police raided his home in Haifa and arrested him. Makhoul is still not allowed to see his lawyer.

Ameer Makhoul’s arrest, detention and a previously imposed travel ban are based on emergency regulations and “secret” information that is never disclosed to the defense. They are a flagrant violation of the UN Declaration and the EU guidelines on Human Rights Defenders. Palestinian human rights of freedom of movement, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and association as well as the right to protection from arbitrary arrest are daily violated.

Israel blatantly disregards all democratic principles in order to prevent Palestinian – and indeed all - civil society to speak out and to crush the popular movement to defend the rights and existence of the Palestinian people.

Mr. Makhoul’s case is only one example amidst a recent escalated campaign by Israeli authorities against Palestinian human rights defenders and civil resistance. In addition to arbitrary arrest and detention, Israeli authorities have applied travel bans against a number of Palestinian human rights defenders in recent months.

Israeli authorities have also started to target Palestinian, Israeli and international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) as part of their wider campaign against Palestinian human rights defenders. Measures used include raids of organizations’ offices, deportation of organization staff and volunteers, a new policy of visa denials for international NGO workers, and pending legislation in the Knesset that would enable the Israeli government to close down any organization that gives information to foreign actors or participates in legal efforts outside Israel to try Israeli officials for war crimes.

http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=115095168526586
http://freeameermakhoul.blogspot.com/2010/05/stop-repression-of-palestinian-civil.html

Posted by: Jan Boeykens | 05/11/2010

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Posted by: Mork | 05/11/2010

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