Tuesday, June 4th was the latest hearing in the case of the detained human rights defender Hassan Karajah. Before the hearing I met with Hassan’s fiancé Sundos who told me about Hassan and his case. Sundos and Hassan were engaged in December 2012, just one month before his arrest, and had planned to be married at the end of this month. Unfortunately, they must now wait until Hassan is released to have their wedding. Hassan has been detained by Israel since the Israeli military took him from his home in the early hours of 23rd January 2013 . For the first thirty-nine days of his detention, Hassan was kept in solitary confinement and interrogated for fourteen to twenty hours each day. During this time he was held in a two meter by two meter cell, barely big enough to fit his body. For the first twenty days of his detention, Hassan was denied access to his lawyer.
(Image: Stop the Wall)
Hassan was transferred from Beer Sheva prison in the Negev Desert, where he is currently being held, to Ofer military court for Tuesday’s hearing. In Beer Sheva Hassan shares a cell with seven other prisoners; they receive enough food for two of them and must share it between all eight. When Hassan was brought into the courtroom, it was obvious that his physical condition has deteriorated since his arrest; he has lost a lot of weight and two teeth, and the brutal interrogation process has significantly aggravated his nerve damage. Hassan was not permitted to take his prescribed medication with him on the night of his arrest and was initially denied his medication in prison. Under pressure from his lawyer, prison officials eventually gave him the correct medicine but at half the prescribed dosage. Hassan is therefore currently not taking any medication for his condition, instead exercising inside the prison to try and rehabilitate himself.
Hassan is a respected and admired human rights defender whose most recent position was youth coordinator for the Stop the Wall campaign, a grassroots organisation seeking to tear down the illegal apartheid wall that Israel has been constructing on Palestinian land since 2002. Hassan previously worked as a youth coordinator for the Partnership for Development Project, an umbrella group for three Palestinian civil society organisations: Tamer Institution, Ma’an Development Centre and Bissan Centre for Research and Development. He was also a youth ambassador for the Arab Thought Forum and represented Palestinian youth in the many Arab League Conferences in Syria, Lebanon, Tunisia, Turkey, Sweden and Austria. It is highly likely that these activities and particularly his overseas travel placed Hassan on the Israeli radar and led to his arrest. Arbitrary arrest is a risk that Palestinians must consciously take in order to resist illegal Israeli occupation and defend their internationally sanctioned human rights.
On the day of Hassan’s hearing I met Sundos outside the military court whilst we waited to enter. Expecting the trial to be a rather sombre affair, I was surprised to find her happy and joyful; she was visibly excited to be able to see Hassan for the first time since his last hearing in April. Hassan’s father also attended the hearing on Tuesday, seeing his son for the first time since Hassan’s arrest in January. Hassan’s family, like many Palestinian families, are not unfamiliar with the imprisonment of their loved ones in Israeli jail. Hassan’s younger sister Sumoud was released as part of a prisoner exchange in 2011 after serving two years of a twenty year sentence, and his brother Muntasser was arrested in September 2012 and sentenced to ten months in prison and a 2000 shekel fine .
Hassan has been held for over four months and is still awaiting his sentencing. The allegations against him include membership in the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), an illegal organisation according to Israeli law along with all other Palestinian political parties. Hassan is also charged with harbouring ties to the militant group Hezbollah, deemed an enemy of Israel. The evidence behind these charges is extremely tenuous: Hassan arranged a sound system for a PFLP party and took a trip to Lebanon, where Hezbollah is based, in 2012. On Tuesday, at the request of his defense team, Hassan’s court hearing was postponed until July 9th to give the defense an opportunity to contest the evidence against him. Thus, Hassan’s family and friends must wait at least another three weeks for a verdict.
Hassan’s arrest is part of Israel’s deliberate repression of Palestinian human rights defenders involved in activism against the occupation. Stop the Wall has been the target of Israeli repression before: the organisation’s Ramallah offices were raided by the Israeli military in May 2012 and two laptops, three hard drives and ten memory cards were stolen3. Nor is Hassan the first of the campaign’s prominent members to be arrested: both the coordinator, Jamal Juma, and the previous youth coordinator, Mohammed Othman, were arrested in 2009 and later released without charge .
In an interview published by Electronic Intifada before his arrest, Hassan predicted that Stop the Wall would face further repression by Israel as the youth movement against the occupation continues to grow. He remained undeterred:
“We are apparently asked to sit at home and watch our last lands being confiscated, our homes demolished and thousands of Palestinians being taken away to Israeli jails, many even without trials or charges. But we will not sit at home and we will not be silent.” 
During his short appearance in the military courtroom, Hassan remained defiant, joking and laughing. As he left the courtroom he raised two fingers in the peace sign to his supporters, a gesture of solidarity in resistance.