Occupied west bank – Two of the four re-arrested Palestinian political prisoners have told their lawyers that Israeli interrogators are subjecting them to physical and mental abuse and torture, in the first meeting they had with them since they were arrested last week.
Lawyers Khaled and Ruslan Mahajneh from the Palestinian Authority (PA) Detainee Affairs Commission’s defense team met separately with Mohammed and Mahmoud al-Ardah on Wednesday, after Israeli intelligence services lifted the ban on the prisoners’ access to their lawyers five days after their re-arrest.
Khaled Mahajneh gave an emotional interview to Palestine TV as he was leaving the Jalama detention center after seeing his client Mohammed al-Ardah, who he claims is deprived of food, sleep and medical care while enduring intensive rounds of interrogation.
“Mohammed has gone through, and continues to go through, a very difficult torture journey,” Khaled said. “After his new arrest, Mohammed was taken to the Nazareth Interrogation Center, where he was interrogated in a very ugly way.
“There were about 20 intelligence interrogators in a very small room who stripped him of all his clothes, including his underwear, and forced him to remain naked for several hours. They then gave him a shawl to cover his genitals and then transferred him to the Jalama interrogation center. “
‘Cuts and scrapes’
The lawyer said that Mohammed was beaten by Israeli forces during his arrest. “His head was hit to the ground and now he is injured above the right eye. You have not received the medical treatment you need at this time. He suffers cuts and scratches all over his body, due to the attempted escape and the persecution of him and Zakaria Zubaidi by the Israeli forces ”.
Israeli authorities announced the re-arrest of Mahmoud Abdullah al-Ardah, 46, and Yaqoub Mahmoud Qadri, 49, on the southern outskirts of Nazareth on Friday night. Zakaria Zubeidi, 46, and Mohammed al-Ardah, 39, were arrested around dawn on Saturday in the Palestinian village of Shibli-Umm al-Ghanam. All four are detained and interrogated in Jalama.
They were among the six men, along with Ayham Nayef Kamanji, 35, and Munadel Infaat, 26, whose whereabouts are unknown, who escaped from Gilboa prison in Israel at dawn on 6 September.
’24 hour questioning’
Khaled Mahajneh said that six Israeli interrogators were behind Mohammed al-Ardah, whose arms and legs were handcuffed, during their meeting. The lawyer said he repeatedly asked to at least remove the shackles from Mohammed’s arms, but officers refused.
According to Khaled, Mohammed was not given food until four days after being detained again and has not slept for more than 10 hours due to consecutive rounds of interrogation.
“He has been under interrogation 24 hours a day since Saturday … He is being questioned late at night and early in the morning,” Khaled said. “He does not see the sun, nor the light, nor the wind. When I met with him, he asked me if it was afternoon, I didn’t know it was midnight. “
The lawyer said that Mohammed is being held in a cell “not exceeding 2 by 1 square meter”, lives “under 24-hour surveillance” and is being “interrogated by 10 officers every day.”
In a separate interview, lawyer Ruslan Mahajneh, who met with Mahmoud al-Ardah that same night, said that the detainee told him that he was being questioned 24 hours a day.
And, according to a statement For the Palestinian Authority Commission, attorney Avigdor Feldman met with Zakaria Zubaidi at noon on Wednesday.
“Prisoner Zubaidi was found to have been beaten and abused during his arrest with prisoner Mohammed al-Ardah, resulting in a broken jaw and two broken ribs,” the Commission said.
Zubaidi, the statement continued, “was taken to an Israeli hospital and administered pain relievers after the arrest” and “suffers from bruises and scratches all over his body as a result of beatings and abuse.”
While the Israeli Supreme Court outlawed the use of torture in 1999, interrogators, particularly the intelligence services, have continued to use violence against Palestinian detainees, which the courts have retroactively sanctioned. The four prisoners are being interrogated by Israeli intelligence services in cooperation with the Lahav 443 police unit, which lawyers say could last up to 45 days.
The prisoners appeared separately on Saturday before the Israeli Court of First Instance in Nazareth, which decided to extend their detention until 19 September to “complete the investigation”.
At the judicial hearing on Saturday, according to the Palestinian Authority Commission, several initial charges were brought against the four: “Flight, complicity in a flight, conspiracy to commit an attack, and membership in and rendering of services to a hostile organization. . “
Khaled Mahajneh told Al Jazeera after the hearing that the authorities refused to provide information on the charge of “conspiracy to commit an attack”, claiming that the file is secret.
In his interview with Palestine TV, Khaled said that Mohammed al-Ardah is “completely rejecting the security accusations that the intelligence is trying to impose on him.” Mohammed reportedly told Khaled that he “could have done anything in the five days” that he was free, but that he “sought freedom and tried to walk the streets of occupied Palestine in 1948.”
According to international law, a prisoner of war escaping from prison “will only be subject to disciplinary action”, which means that no additional years should be added to his initial sentence, even if it is an attempt. repeated.
In previous incidents in which Palestinian prisoners escaped from Israeli jails and were re-arrested, several faced punitive measures, such as long periods of isolation, but received no longer sentences, according to lawyers.
The majority of Palestinians view those detained in Israeli prisons, numbering 4,650 Palestinians, including 200 children and 520 administrative detainees without trial or charge, as political prisoners who are detained due to or resistance to the Israeli military occupation.
Before escaping from prison, four of the six prisoners had been serving life sentences, while two were being held awaiting military trial.
Those convicted were arrested between 1996 and 2006 and had been convicted of carrying out attacks against Israeli civilian and military targets. Five of them are affiliated with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad group, while one is a high-ranking member of the armed wing of Fatah, a Palestinian group that dominates the Palestinian Authority.
After the prisoners escaped through a tunnel that opened a few meters beyond the prison wall, Israeli forces launched a huge manhunt to search for them and arrested some of their relatives.