A Be’er Sheva man was held in a Palestinian Authority jail for 12 days. He was released Wednesday, after Haaretz appealed to Israel’s Civil Administration and the Palestinian police. Friends of Alaa Anaim, 25, said he was imprisoned under harsh conditions and was prevented from contacting his attorney.
Moti Regev, the lawyer representing Anaim’s family, had asked Israeli authorities to intervene. But, he said, they ignored his appeals, even though under the terms of the Oslo Accords the PA may not arrest or try Israeli citizens, and may only detain them and hand them over to Israeli authorities.
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Friends say Anaim traveled to Ramallah on June 11 to do some shopping and pass the time. At the checkpoint at the city’s entrance, he was identified as an Israeli citizen and a check of his vehicle revealed an illegal synthetic marijuana known as Nice Guy. Although only a small quantity of the drug was found, suggesting it was for personal use only, the Ramallah police arrested and jailed him.
Anaim’s family was not notified of the arrest and heard nothing from him for five days. “All they knew was that Alaa went to hang out in the PA and hadn’t returned,” said Regev.
A relative told Haaretz before Anaim was released that the family had turned to Israeli authorities for assistance and that “no one helped us. If he weren’t a Bedouin, the whole country would have been there for him.”
After five days, Anaim succeeded in getting a message to his family saying that he had been detained in Ramallah and that he had not been fed for several days. He said that during his interrogation he had been handcuffed for several hours and subject to physical violence.
Regev appealed to Israeli authorities by email and telephone, but he said that no official expressed any interest in the situation. All he was told was that the situation was being taken care of.
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Meanwhile, Anaim succeeded in getting a second message to his family, telling them that he has started getting food. In addition, he was brought in front of a judge who extended Anaim’s remand after a hearing that lasted a few minutes during which he was accused of dealing drugs and weapons.
Anaim said the Ramallah police had conditioned his release on his acquiring weapons for it back in Israel. Anaim’s family retained a Palestinian lawyer to intervene, but he began asking for more money than they had originally agreed on.
On Wednesday, the Palestinian police announced that Anaim would be released to Israel and did so shortly afterward. The decision came after Haaretz inquired into the affair, even though Anaim’s family had been seeking assistance for a week.
“Our son has been under arrest in the PA for two weeks, and we still don’t know anything about his condition or the circumstances of his arrest,” Khaled Anaim, Alaa’s father, told Haaretz just before his son’s release. “Everyone who asked the police and army about it was simply ignored. It pains me to see how an Israeli citizen in need of help from the government is treated. I don’t want to sound racist, but I am sure that if it had been a Jew that had been arrested something would have been done about it a long time ago and he would have been freed.”
Before Anaim’s release, Regev said that “the authorities conduct in this case was outrageous and a scandal – an Israeli citizen was detained for more than 10 days by the PA without a shred of information about his situation being made available, without appropriate representation, and none of the proper authorities showed any empathy or a desire to help bring him back.
“There’s a mutually agreed coordination mechanism to deal with situations like these, but nothing was done. From what we learned from others who were in jail with Alaa, he was held under bad conditions, without food or drink, beaten and subject to degrading treatment because he was an Israeli citizen,” said Regev.
The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories denied that it refused to get involved in the case. “Upon receiving a claim that Alaa Anaim was being held in PA territory, the Coordination and Liaison Administration in the Jerusalem area investigated the case, which in the end resulted in his being released from arrest in PA territory and his transfer to the care of the Israel Police,” COGAT said in a statement.