Israel Detains Palestinian Lawyer Without Trial After Claim He Was Tapped With NSO Spyware

Salah Hamouri, hailing from East Jerusalem, faces a four-month administrative detention for membership of the outlawed Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine

Jack Khoury
Jack Khoury
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Hamouri in Ramallah in 2020.
Hamouri in Ramallah in 2020.Credit: ABBAS MOMANI / AFP
Jack Khoury
Jack Khoury

Palestinian lawyer Salah Hamouri was detained without trial by Israeli authorities on Thursday, who alleged he belongs to the outlawed Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and poses a threat to national security.

Israel issued the four-month administrative detention order against Hamouri, who is from East Jerusalem and holds French citizenship, on Thursday, three days after his arrest. 

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Hamouri has represented Palestinian prisoners and worked for the Palestinian NGO Addameer, which Israel's Defense Minister Benny Gantz declared as a terrorist organization and a front for the PFLP in October – along with five other Palestinian civil society groups. The U.S. and Europe, however, have said little to no evidence was provided to support the claims.

In November, three groups — Amnesty International, Front Line Defenders and Citizen Lab — reported that Hamouri was one of six Palestinian activists who had their phone infected with NSO Group's Pegasus spyware.

Prior to his arrest, Hamouri was in the process of fighting a decision by the Interior Ministry to void his residency status and deport him. Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked restarted the process in October, launched by her predecessor Arye Dery, arguing his actions represented a “breach of allegiance to the State of Israel.”

According to Addameer, the allegation that Hamouri was involved in “terrorist activity or belonging to a terrorist group” was based on confidential evidence.

Hamouri served seven years in prison after he was convicted in 2005 for participating in a plot to kill former Sephardic Chief Rabbi Ovadia Yosef and for membership in the PFLP. He was released about three months early as part of the prisoner swap to release Gilad Shalit. He has since been placed in administrative detention several times.

Attorney Leah Tsemel and Hamoked Center for the Defense of the Individual had filed a request for a temporary injunction to allow Hamouri to remain in Jerusalem until a final decision was reached on his appeal against the revocation of his residency. According to Hamouri's lawyer, the request was rejected by the Supreme Court on Thursday, the same day the administrative detention order was issued.

In the ruling, the Supreme Court said it was informed by the state before reaching a verdict that Hamouri had been arrested and was being investigated as a criminal suspect for serious violations of national security.

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