Letter from the Palestinian astrophysicist Imad al-Barghouthi after his release from detention

Dear Sir, As a result of international pressure on my behalf (*) initiated by AURDIP and BRICUP mainly, I am very grateful to have been released on January 22 from….

Dear Sir,

As a result of international pressure on my behalf (*) initiated by AURDIP and BRICUP mainly, I am very grateful to have been released on January 22 from arbitrary administrative detention by Israeli authorities. I was arrested on December 6, 2014, at the Karama border crossing, as I was travelling to Jordan on my way to the United Arab Emirates to attend a conference organized by the Arab Association of Astronomy and Space Sciences of which I am a founding member. The Israeli military order to detain me extended until March 5, 2015 and would have likely been renewed had such international pressure by people of conscience not been exerted on the Israeli government. Now that I have been released, I am still subject to detention at any moment without charge or trial because of my political views and political affiliations.

Many other Palestinians have not been as lucky as I am. According to the Palestinian Prisoners’ Society, the wave of mass arrests conducted by Israeli military courts against Palestinians in the first two weeks of December of last year included 54 Palestinians besides myself. Another Palestinian academic, Dr. Ghassan Thuqan of the Faculty of Education at An-Najah University, is languishing in ill health at the Naqab (Negev) desert prison without charge or trial since July 9th. His appeal to the system that detained him in the first place was rejected on the basis of a “secret file”, which is how these appeals usually go. In January, nine orders to imprisonment without charge or trial for Palestinian prisoners have been renewed by the Ofer military court in Ramallah.

These waves of mass arrests and detention without charge or trial continue to be a means that the Israeli authorities use in order to repress freedom of expression by criminalizing it through Israeli Military Order 101, used by the IDF to restrict Palestinians’ rights to freedom of expression and assembly. Frank La Rue, (former Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression) describes this order as follows: The order “criminalizes political expression and activities, including organizing and participating in protests; taking part in assemblies or vigils; holding, waving or displaying flags or other political symbols; and printing and distributing any material ‘having a political significance’.” Any breach of the order is punishable by 10 years of imprisonment and/or fine. The Israeli Military Code applied in the West Bank is used against civilians as a way of repression against Human Rights Defenders. Under this order, students and faculty on Palestinian campuses assembling to protest, say, the 2014 assault on Gaza are subject to arrest and detention, as are protesters such as Palestinian activist Abdallah Abu Rahma, due to be sentenced on February 8th for exercising his legitimate right to protest in a nonviolent manner (in 2012) against the human rights violations and abuses perpetrated by the State of Israel on the occupied Palestinian territories.

I call on the international community that spoke up on my behalf to speak up also on behalf of all Palestinian political prisoners. There are approximately 500 Palestinians held in administrative detention, imprisoned without charge or trial. The systematic use of arbitrary imprisonment by Israeli forces to punish Palestinians violates international humanitarian law under the Fourth Geneva Convention.

Imad Barghouthi

Professor of Physics (Theoretical Space Plasma Physics)
Space Research lab, Department of Physics
Faculty of Science, Al-Quds University, Jerusalem