As far as anyone knows human rights defender Anas Barghouti will finally find out why he was jailed when he goes to trial early next week. He was arrested last Sunday at a checkpoint near Bethlehem ominously referred to by locals as the “container” because it has a reputation of soldiers holding, then transporting Palestinians—often landing them in an Israeli prison.
This is what happened to Barghouti. He was taken to an Israeli detention facility, then another one for questioning—a fact that is further confused because Barghouti, like many Palestinians captured at the “container,” has not been charged with any crime. And Barghouti himself is a prominent attorney, having built a reputation representing Palestinian political prisoners incarcerated by the Palestinian Authority. He is also a staple activist in Ramallah, a regular at protests for Gaza, or against negotiations.
“He really is a human rights defender,” said colleague Randa Wahbe, an advocacy officer at the prisoner rights legal group Addameer. “He is well loved and he is constantly working” in both a private practice as pro-bono with Addameer.
Addameer, Barghouti’s former employer released a statement yesterday with details on his whereabouts:
‘Bargouthi is currently being held in a detention and interrogation center in Etzion settlement in the southern West Bank, where he is being held in inhumane conditions. In the first 36 hours of his detention, he was only given two meals, not allowed to shower, change his clothing or given any personal hygiene products.’
What’s unclear is why the advocate is sharing the fate of his clients. When I spoke to Addameer, they just didn’t have any more details other than his court date. “We don’t know anything else,” said Wahbe.
Palestinians held administrative detention do not have the right to know what evidence is presented against them, what suspicions are levied on them, or how long they will be locked up. Even more, under military code the Israelis can pass new restrictions without disclosing them to Palestinians, which leads to the occupied West Bank residents breaking tenets they did not know existed.
Such was the case with a colleague of Barghouti, Ayman Nasser, a legal researcher who was held in administrative detention until he was finally charged after one year with “prisoner solidarity and support.” Nasser was sentenced to 13 months prison. The judge said it was because he attended a demonstration for the then hunger-striking prisoners. Yet at the time when I interviewed his co-workers and legal defense team, they said during interrogation the Israeli authorities mostly asked Nasser about his job.
In court Nasser objected. ”I am a human rights defender who supports the Palestinian prisoners,” he said noting that he was ostensibly being punished for NGO work, political NGO work, but advocacy nonetheless. “I represent my opinions in the public media. My thoughts are not secret, they are public, and everyone knows them.”
Then a few months later under the cover of night the Israeli military raided Addameer’s office in the upscale Ramallah neighborhood of Masyoun.
Barghouti will appear at Ofer military court on Sunday, perhaps then he will know what offense is being leaned against him.