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Imprisoned Franco-Palestinian human rights lawyer goes on hunger strike

LONDON: Franco-Palestinian human rights lawyer Salah Hamouri, who was imprisoned without charge by Israeli authorities for six months, has gone on a hunger strike in protest.

Hamouri was arrested on March 7 at his home in East Jerusalem. No charges have been brought against him, but his detention order has been extended until at least early December based on undisclosed evidence, The Guardian reported.

A member of the #JusticeforSalah campaign told the newspaper that negotiations with Israeli authorities on Wednesday for the lawyer’s release were unsuccessful.

Hamouri, along with 29 other detainees in Israeli jails, reportedly began an indefinite hunger strike on Sunday to protest administrative detention. It is an Israeli practice, commonly used against Palestinians who are subject to the military justice system rather than civilian justice, under which suspects can be detained for renewable terms of six months without charge or access to evidence against them, on the grounds that they might break the law in the future by being released.

Israeli authorities say the practice is necessary to prevent terrorist attacks and protect sensitive intelligence sources. However, human rights activists say Israeli authorities are overusing it and violating the suspects’ right to due process.

Israel currently holds 743 administrative detainees, the highest number since 2008, according to Israeli human rights group HaMoked.

In July, Hamouri, 37, was transferred to a maximum security prison called Hadarim, where he was placed in a tiny solitary confinement cell. It came after he wrote a letter to French President Emmanuel Macron asking for help from the French government, according to #JusticeforSalah.

His wife, French national Elsa Lefort, and their two children, who live in France, have been prevented from visiting or even speaking to Hamouri on the phone since his arrest.

Hamouri has been imprisoned by Israel on several occasions, including a seven-year sentence between 2005 and 2011 for his alleged role in an assassination plot against a chief rabbi.

While he maintained his innocence during three years in pre-trial detention, he eventually agreed to a plea bargain to avoid a 14-year prison sentence or deportation to France, which would likely have caused him to lose his residency rights. in Jerusalem delivered by Israel.

In 2016, Lefort, then pregnant, was deported after arriving at Tel Aviv airport and banned from entering Israel for 10 years.

Hammouri’s residency rights in Jerusalem were revoked in October 2021. The reason given was a “breach of allegiance” to the Israeli state, based on undisclosed evidence. It was a legal first, according to the Guardian. The residency case is due to be heard again in February next year.

“Salah never stopped talking openly about the occupation. He still speaks at events in France and on tours, speaking about the conditions of political prisoners and other violations,” a spokesperson for #JusticeforSalah told the Guardian.

“Treating him like this is a way of trying to silence him, break him and send a message to other human rights defenders.”

In recent years, several Palestinians have gone on long hunger strikes to protest their administrative detention. In most cases, Israel eventually released them after their health deteriorated significantly.

The most recent high-profile Palestinian hunger striker was Khalil Awawdeh, who was at risk of death and suffered neurological damage following a nearly six-month hunger strike. He ended his protest in August after Israel agreed to release him when his current administrative detention order expired.