Thursday, May 27, 2010

Trial by torture in Israel "security" case

FAMILY of Palestinian Israeli citizen Ameer Makhoul, who was taken from his home in Haifa three weeks ago, have alleged that he has been tortured by his interrogators from the General Security Service (GSS), also known from its Hebrew initials as Shabak, or Shin Bet.

Makhoul, Director of Ittijah, a coalition of Palestinian Israeli community organizations, has not yet been charged with any crime. The Israeli government talks vaguely about "security" concerns, both to justify keeping information from the media and public, and to encourage rumours that the rights worker is some kind of "spy" endangering the State and fellow-citizens.

Omar Said, a pharmacist from Kafr Cana, near Nazareth, arrested at the same time as Makhoul, has been charged with being in contact with "foreign agents" -specifically, it was reported while on holiday in Sharm el Sheikh, he was approached by a Lebanese businessman, and that over coffee, the man said he was from Hezbollah and asked questions about the attitudes of Palestinians within Israel, and what they thought of Hezbollah. When he suggested Said could gather military information, Said, a member of the Balad party, said he was not the man for the job.

Under Israeli law, it is enough for the State to allege that you met foreign agents, without having to prove that you even knew they were agents, let alone helped them in any way. This was the case with a Jewish Israeli, Aharon Cohen, a member of the left-Zionist Mapam, and its expert on Arab affairs, jailed in 1958 over his contacts with someone he met at a Czech embassy reception.

In the case of the Lebanese person with whom Said, and perhaps Makhoul, allegedly had contacts, there are reasons to doubt that he had anything to do with Hezbollah, and suggestions he was an opponent of the party. Besides which, we have yet to hear what kind of military information the two would have had access to, even if they had agreed to obtain it.

Makhoul's lawyer was not allowed to see him for the first weeks of his arrest. Now his lawyers and his family, having seen him, assert that he has been tortured.

What follows, in its entirety, is a press statement from the family of Ameer Makhoul on his arrest and treatment, titled, “We Accuse.”

Today is the 21st day since the arrest of Ameer Makhoul at his home in Haifa, Israel, under the cover of darkness, by the International Crimes Investigation Unit and General Security Service (GSS or Shabak) officers. The arrest was conducted in a brutal and terrifying manner. Our house was raided, its contents ransacked, and various pieces of equipment and objectsof special value to us were confiscated. Violations of our fundamental rights to human dignity and privacy were committed, and physical, verbal and
psychological violence were employed against us and in front of our two daughters. On this day we, Ameer’s family, announce that we are extremely worried about what is happening to him and about the conditions of his detention.

We know that Ameer has suffered and continues to suffer from acute pains in his head, his back and in both of his legs as a result of the severe torture he was subjected to, in breach of his most basic human rights. These include the rights to sleep, drink and eat, and the rights to dignity and not to be exposed to humiliating and degrading treatment. His complete isolation from the outside world, the control exercised over him by the GSS interrogators, and his interrogation for hours and days on end without sleep, while in shackles and bound by his hands and feet to a low chair in a way that did not allow him to move, causing him severe pain, from which he still continues to suffer now, all resulted in his losing his sense of time and ability to think and concentrate, and in his mental disorientation. These methods are illegal under Israeli and international law.

Until today, 26 May, the court refused to allow Ameer’s attorneys to read the medical report written by a doctor who visited him twice during the interrogation. It also refused to allow an independent doctor sent from Physicians for Human Rights – Israel to examine him, as demanded by Adalah, Physicians for Human Rights – Israel and the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel. These refusals raise concerns and questions about the information that the GSS, with the backing of the court, wants to conceal regarding his conditions of detention and their methods of interrogation.
What, we wonder, is the GSS hiding and why is it stalling? Is it in order to hide signs of the physical and psychological violence it has inflicted on him? And why has the court given its consent to these procedures?

What particularly worries us is that Ameer continues to complain of acute pains, and his eyesight has deteriorated, which has compelled him to ask for a stronger pair of glasses. The question is how and why this severely diminished eyesight was caused during his detention, and what the methods of interrogation were that led to this deterioration and to the pains he is complaining of.

The bigger questions are: What is the Israeli security establishment trying to cover up? Why is the court colluding with the GSS and concealing the conditions of detention and methods of interrogation/torture that have been used against Ameer?

Why did the court block the publication of the details of Ameer’s affidavit as it relates to the illegal methods of interrogation used against him, and which he spoke of before his lawyers in his initial meeting with them, held after around two weeks of being banned from access to legal counsel?

We appeal to the local and international communities and to individuals to continue to act quickly to put pressure on the Israeli government and legal system to open an independent investigation into the methods used by the GSS interrogators against Ameer, and to demand the indictment of those responsible for the use of torture against him. We also call on the local and international communities to consider any indictment by the GSS to have been fabricated and extorted under torture and gained solely by obstructing democratic freedoms and human rights. These acts are invalid and illegitimate, and in flagrant violation of international law.

We call for demands on the Israeli authorities to immediately call off this trial, which is based on an investigation in which Ameer was prevented from defending himself in any genuine manner. Ameer was denied the basic human rights to which he is entitled under Israeli and international law. The independence of the judiciary and democratic freedoms were dangerously subjected to the dictates of the GSS in this case.

We greatly appreciate the community, institutional and individual solidarity with Ameer, local and international, and all efforts to defend his freedom.
We are aware of the importance of the role played by all political movements and political parties in challenging the circumstances of Ameer’s arrest, and this attack against the Arab public and its leadership, and on democratic freedom and human rights. We are also aware that the clear strategic choice of the Arab public in Israel has been and continues to be the that of unyielding and legitimate political struggle.

The fact is that Ameer Makhoul does not belong to any specific political
party. Rather, he reserves for himself an independent position, which is a clear indication that the main target of this attack is the Arab Palestinian public and their leadership, their rights and freedoms. Defending the freedom of Ameer and his rights as a detainee, and rejecting incitement against Arab citizens in light of his detention, are not an individual or class issue, but a national, democratic mission.

The real indictment is against the GSS and the Israeli establishment, which are trampling on democratic freedoms and human rights and resorting to illegal methods of interrogation and torture.

Janan Abdu, Partner of Ameer Makhoul (+972-54-756-2171)

Issam Makhoul, Brother of Ameer Makhoul (+972-50-551-0433) •

for latest on case and background, see:

Campaigners for Palestinian rights and a just peace point to a growing trend by the Zionist authorities to treat civil resistance as a military foe, and internal dissent as a "security threat", clamping down on opposition including Israeli Jews who seek co-existence rather than repression of the Palestinians. On the same day that an Israeli court ordered Mordechai Vanunu back to jail for "contact with foreigners", another Israeli, peace activist Ezra Nawi, was jailed for supposedly attacking a policeman, during a protest against a Palestinian home being destroyed.

Two campaigners against Israel's annexation wall, Jamal Jum'a and Mohammed Othman, were arrested. The military and border police have brutally attacked demonstrations in Bil'in and Ni'lin, unconcerned whether Israelis and internationals were among those upon whom they fired rubber bullets and tear gas canisters, and have followed up with night raids on homes in these villages.

A women's group accused of encouraging young people to refuse military service has had its premises raided by police, and been banned from speaking in schools. The New Israel Fund, which channels funds to social, humanitarian and civil rights groups, has become the target for both official and unofficial harassment.
Ironically, the Fund is condemned for taking funds from abroad ( in fact from donors in countries friendly to Israel ), while the campaign against it is spearheaded by Im Tirzu, a student organisation encouraged by the military and financed by extremist American christians! (It's best-known backer is Pastor John Hagee, who says Hitler was sent by God to hunt Jews out so they would have to go to Palestine).

This weekend the Israeli government is threatening to bomb a flotilla of humanitarian aid vessels attempting to break the blockade and bring succour to the embattled population of Gaza. Israeli officials say they will stop the boats from bringing aid - food, medicines, building materials, educational materials such as children's crayons - to an "enemy population". This siege, this war on an entire civil population, is a war crime. Governments which refuse to say, let alone do, anything about it, are the accomplices to the war criminals.

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