Israel Falsely Tells Court Palestinian Hunger Striker Recorded Boasting of Islamic Jihad Membership

State prosecutors representing defense agencies said administrative detainee had been filmed saying in his hospital bed that he was proud of belonging to the Palestinian armed group, but evidence says otherwise

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Maher Akhras is seen in a hospital bed in Kaplan Hospital, September 29, 2020.
Maher Akhras is seen in a hospital bed in Kaplan Hospital, September 29, 2020.Credit: Motti Millrod
הגר שיזף
Hagar Shezaf

The state had claimed in a closed-door High Court session that hunger striking Palestinian administrative detainee Maher Akhras had been recorded boasting about being a member in militant Islamic Jihad organization, despite the transcript showing that he did not.

The court rejected on Thursday a petition by Akhras to release him from administrative detention – or jail without trial – in part on the state’s response. But the gap between what the state claimed and what the judge was told came to light only after the ruling was handed down.

The four month detention order was issued against Akhras, 49 of Silat ad-Dhahr a village near the West Bank city of Nablus, on August 7, on the basis of secret intelligence. Akhras was accused of being a prominent member of Islamic Jihad, “who is involved in activity that endangers security in the area, incites and makes extremist statements.”

Akhras denied these accusations under questioning.

He has been on a hunger strike ever since his arrest in July and has been at Kaplan Hospital since September 6.

File photo: The Israeli High Court of Justice in Jerusalem, September 23, 2016.Credit: Michal Fattal

The hunger strike has lasted longer than 60 days. Akhras’ only nutritional intake has been water. Doctors have said they fear for his life. But he has vowed to continue the strike until he is released.

Last Wednesday Akhras’ attorney Ahlam Haddad filed another petition to the High Court of Justice to free his client. In their ruling on Thursday Justice Yitzhak Amit said that state prosecutors representing Central Command and the Shin Bet had said that Akhras had been filmed saying in his hospital bed that he was proud of belonging to Islamic Jihad – an organization that has perpetrated suicide bombings and other deadly attacks against Israel.

The same day in response to the attorney’s request state prosecutors handed over the transcript and it was found to not contain any reference by Akhras to Islamic Jihad. The transcript does quote Akhras as vowing to continue his under strike until he is freed or dies as a martyr, and he also called to protect the al-Aqsa Mosque and expressed a desire to worship there. The report about the transcript was presented at a closed-door hearing although the video is not classified material and has been circulated on Palestinian social media.

Administrative detention involves no indictment, no revelation of confidential evidence, and no trial or judgment of the accusations against the prisoner. Not even Akhras’ lawyers can see the full range of evidence and suspicions against her client, and these can be renewed every few months indefinitely.

An assistant director at Kaplan Hospital wrote in a statement last week that Akhras was refusing examinations and that he was weak but conscious. He added that in the staff’s opinion continuing to drink only water would endanger his organs and life.

Haddad said that her client denies being a current member of Islamic Jihad and declares that he wasn’t involved in political activity during the period in question. “Israel claims he incites and has extremist views,” she said, “but they didn’t provide any proof, even when they were asked if he had incited on Facebook or if there was a quote of what he had said.”

“The only thing they asked me was about my meeting with friends who were jailed with me and had remained friends with me after prison,” Akhras told Haaretz. “I personally don’t know if any of my friends, whether or not they were in prison, were ever members in organizations. I told them, ‘If you know, arrest the friend you suspect. Do you have suspicions about me?’ Then they said, no, they have no evidence that I am a member of any organization.”

The Shin Bet said in response that Akhras was detained “on the basis of intelligence information pointing to him being a prominent activist with Islamic Jihad involved in activities that endanger public safety. In the past Akhras was involved in terrorism and was arrested five times for his activism with Islamic Jihad.”

The response added that after a previous court decision, “a video was taken in which Akhras was seen expressing his desire to die as a martyr, a need to defend al-Aqsa by blood, etc. The video was circulation on social media. As part of another petition filed by Akhras… the main points off this video were presented and also classified intelligence information with regard to his extremist remarks. Contrary to what the article seeks to claim it is clear that the video was not a part of the factual evidence for the decision to detain him or the court’s ruling that found Akhras is involved in activities that endanger security.”

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