Palestinian parliamentarian Khalida Jarrar returned to her West Bank home in Ramallah today after more than a year in an Israeli prison on charges related to her political activism.
Jarrar was arrested in April 2015 first under an administrative detention order, a form of imprisonment without charge. In December of that year she signed a plea deal for a 14-month sentence after a lengthy hearing.
After a tearful reunion with her husband, mother, and supporters at the checkpoint, Jarrar then traveled to her house in Ramallah.
Once in her backyard amid shrubs and fruit trees Jarrar described her legal ordeal, and the long journeys she made to Israel’s military court to stand trial.
“The process of transferring prisoners to court is very bad and includes a 15-hour trip,” Jarrar told reporters. “They are shackled inside of vehicles, accompanied by other security detainees and criminals, and upon their arrival they are placed in solitary confinement, in a cold and dirty cell.”
“The living conditions inside of HaSharon prison is difficult,” she said of the women detention facility where she was held in northern Israel, “There are prisoners who are sick.”
“The basic requirement prisoners have is to turn words into actions for their cause, to grant their freedom, and to end of their sentences,” said Jarrar.
The stone structure was decorated with celebratory posters. As she sat on a plastic chair under a festive tent erected in her courtyard, visitors welcomed Jarrar with customary kisses on both cheeks.“This is great, great, great, this is incredible now that she is home” said Jarrar’s sister Manal Kanan Ratroot, “there is no place like home!”
“She was imprisoned only because she is a campaigner against the occupation,” the Joint List’s Ayman Odeh said over social media .
“I found it was my national duty to met her when she was released from prison, and I had the honor to be the first to greet her and take her to freedom,” Odeh said.
There was no statement from leaders in the Palestinian government.
At the time of Jarrar’s arrest in 2014, 11 more Palestinian parliamentarians were held in Israeli prisons, of whom nine were not charged with any crime according to the Palestinian legal rights group Addameer.
Like other high-profile Palestinian prisoners reuniting with their families, Jarrar was greeted by by supporters. They paraded her by a northern Israeli checkpoint into the West Bank where she was officially released from custody this morning.
In court in 2014, Jarrar had appeared weak as she faced 12 charges, of which most pertained to her professional dealings. Jarrar was prosecuted for speaking at rallies, talking to the media and membership in an illegal organization, the left-bloc political party the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, known by its acronym the PFLP.
Palestinians residing in the West Bank are governed under Israeli military code, which restricts political activity. By the letter of the law membership in any political faction is illegal. But of her charges the most serious was the accusation of “incitement,” where state prosecutors alleged Jarrar called for the abduction of Israeli soldiers.
The Israeli-based 972 Magazine reported on flaws in the evidence presented in court over the incitement charge. Witnesses recanted on the stand, and a photo line-up with images of six men, two of whom were mustached, and Jarrar—the only female in the photo array—was used to identify her.
Ultimately Jarrar signed a plea after her lawyer cited her degrading health as a result of the commute to the military court. “She finally agreed to the plea bargain, believing she would not be given a fair trial and her detention would never end,” Amnesty International reported at the time.
Israeli military courts have a 99.7-percent conviction rate for Palestinian detainees.