RAMALLAH, May 9 (JNews) - Israeli security forces have arrested Amir Makhoul, a Palestinian citizen of Israel
, and placed him in detention, incommunicado
Makhoul, a human rights defender and General Director of Ittijah – The Union of Arab Community-Based Associations, a Palestinian-Israeli NGO network holding special consultative status at the UN, has also been barred from leaving Israel.
According to his family, at 3:10am on 6 May, sixteen Israeli Security Agency (Shin Bet, Shabac) agents and Israeli police officers raided the family home of Makhoul in Haifa
and arrested him.
A hearing in Mr. Makhoul’s case was held at Petah Tikva
interrogation centre later that morning, and his detention was extended for six days.
Mr. Makhoul has been banned from meeting with an attorney for at least two days. An appeal against the ban by human rights group Adalah was overruled by the court. A sweeping ban order on publication of the fact of his arrest by Israeli media has been issued by Israeli authorities.
According to Makhoul’s wife and two daughters, security forces separated Mr. Makhoul from his family and conducted an extensive search of their home, confiscating documents, maps, the family’s four mobile phones, laptops, the hard drives from his daughters’ desktop computers, a camera and a tape recorder.
The security forces refused to identify themselves and showed the family a warrant authorizing Makhoul’s arrest and citing “security” reasons as the grounds for it.
The same night, Israeli security authorities also raided the office of the organisation headed by Makhoul, Ittijah, and confiscated documents and the hard drives from all the organization’s computers.
On 21 April a travel ban had been issued by Israel’s Interior Ministry, prohibiting Makhoul from exiting the country for a two-month period.
The order, signed by Minister Eli Yishai states: “I have reached the conviction that the exit of Ameer Makhoul from the country poses a serious threat to the security of the state, and therefore I issue this order to prevent him from leaving the country until the 21st of June, 2010”.
Makhoul had been unaware of the travel ban until he attempted to leave the country two weeks ago, when he was stopped at the border and informed of the ban.
The arrest and gag order follow the recent arrest and indictment of Jewish Israeli journalist Anat Kamm for leaking classified documents regarding illegal assassinations by the Israeli military. The Kamm story was placed under a sweeping gag order until international media attention led to its suspension last month.
A group of Palestinian human rights organisations issued a statement condemning Makhoul’s arrest and travel ban and calling upon the international community to take a strong stand opposing the Israeli campaign against human rights defenders.
According to the statement, “Makhoul’s arrest warrant and travel ban order are based on “secret” information that is never disclosed to the defense.” The organisations have defined these acts as “arbitrary political actions in violation of fundamental due process principles and human rights standards.”
A request submitted by human rights group Adalah to lift the media gag will be heard next week.