Israel holds 5,000 Palestinian prisoners

Fred Feldman ffeldman at
Fri Dec 20 03:00:48 MST 2002

From: ProletarianNews <bstoller at>

Subject: Israel has 5,000 Palestinians in custody


AP. 18 December 2002. Israel Has 5,000 Palestinians in Custody.

RAMALLAH -- During months in the West Bank, Israel's army has detained
more than 5,000 Palestinian men.

About 1,000 of those prisoners face indefinite detention without trial
-- a status easily renewed every six months.

Israeli human rights groups have protested the mass arrests, but with
Israelis still facing bombings and shootings, broad public support

"These arrests have directly contributed to the reduction in terror
attacks we have witnessed in recent months," the army said in a written
response to The Associated Press. "The arrests also provide us with an
opportunity to question terrorists and foil future planned attacks."

Palestinians see the arrests as random and arbitrary.

At the peak last summer, troops ordered Palestinian males, from
teenagers to the middle-aged, to gather in public places for questioning
and locked up anyone arousing suspicion.

Thousands were held briefly before being freed. In other cases, wanted
Palestinians are arrested in pinpoint raids.

The Palestinian Ministry of Prisoners says about 5,500 Palestinians
arrested since the fighting began in September 2000 remain incarcerated.
The army said it did not have overall numbers but it did not dispute the
Palestinian figures.

Of the total, more than 1,200 Palestinians have been convicted in
Israeli military courts and are serving sentences, according to the
Israeli human rights group B'Tselem and others.

In addition to the 1,000 being held with out charge, about 3,000 are at
various stages of the judicial process, from interrogation to trial.

Abdel Karim Barghouti, a 38-year-old money changer in Ramallah, says his
case is typical.

Detained three times in 1984-1991 for involvement in a banned political
group, his record makes him a permanent suspect, he said.

He was stopped at an Israeli roadblock July 28, 2001, near Ramallah.
After soldiers checked his identity documents, they began kicking him
and shoved him into a military jeep, he said.

He wound up at a military base, and later at the Ashkelon prison in
southern Israel, where he was interrogated for up to eight hours a day
while sitting in a chair, blindfolded and with his hands tied behind his
back, he said.

"The interrogators spit in my face and said, 'No one leaves this place
healthy,'" Barghouti recalled.

At night, guards would bang on the doors to keep the detainees from
sleeping, saying, "Why should you sleep while we have to work?"

Barghouti repeatedly was asked about his previous political activity and
about the current conflict, but never was accused of anything specific,
he said. He was released after two weeks.

Last month, he was stopped at a roadblock and told to go to a military
base for "a cup of coffee" with Israeli military intelligence. Barghouti
turned up, was questioned for about four hours, then told to leave, he

To accommodate the increasing number of prisoners, Israel has reopened
the Ketsiot prison in the Negev Desert.

More than 1,000 Palestinians were detained there at the beginning of
this month, including 840 under "administrative detention," meaning they
can be held indefinitely without charge, B'Tselem said.

During the first Palestinian uprising of 1987-1993, the camp was
notorious for its harsh conditions -- overcrowded cells, frequent
reports of beatings, excessive heat in the summer, freezing cold in the
winter, a lack of family visits. The prison closed in 1996 but reopened
in April.

"Many of those recently detained without charge have been subject to
torture and ill-treatment," said Hisham Abdel Razek, the Palestinian
Minister for Prisoners.

Qadoura Fares, a Palestinian lawmaker who formerly headed parliament's
human rights committee, was imprisoned in 1980-1994 for throwing a bomb
at Israeli soldiers. It failed to detonate.

Prisoners routinely were beaten in those days, he said. At one prison,
Israeli guards had three identical clubs -- nicknamed Jesus, Moses and
Mohammed -- and asked prisoners which they wanted to be hit with, Fares

"For us, this was Israeli democracy -- choosing the club you were beaten
with," he said.

Beatings have become less common since Israel's Supreme Court
[supposedly] outlawed torture in 1999, he said.

But Israelis have stepped up psychological pressure and use methods that
do not leave any physical signs, he said.

Today, prisoners being interrogated are permitted little or no sleep for
days or weeks, Fares said.

They are forced to stand for hours as their feet swell with pain.

Interrogators tell a prisoner his relatives have been killed, or that
the family home will be demolished if he does not confess, he said.

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