Despite Serious Disease, Palestinian Teen Jailed for Over a Month for Stone Throwing

Hassan Mazhar, who suffers from a rare disease, was rushed to the hospital in critical condition. After Mazhar lost consciousness, military prosecutors asked for his release

Hassan Mazhar, 18, lies in his bed at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem.

An 18-year-old Palestinian suffering from a rare genetic disease, who was held for a month and a half on suspicion of throwing stones, was released unconditionally after his health deteriorated. Hassan Mazhar, who lives in Deir Nizam, north of Ramallah, was taken to Shaare Zedek hospital in serious condition on Sunday. He lost consciousness the next day and a few hours later military prosecutors asked for his unconditional release.

Mazhar suffers from a disease known as Methylmalonic acidemia, which involves a metabolic disorder requiring medication and a strict diet. It is accompanied by developmental delays, making Mazhar look much younger than his age. Moreover, the disease is characterized by sensitivity to stress, which can lead to serious aggravation of a patient’s condition.

Mazhar was arrested in April on suspicion of throwing stones. Following his arrest he was taken to Ofer prison, where he was kept until the end of the legal proceedings against him. His family sent him the medication he needed through the prison service, which said Mazhar took his medication regularly and that he was served meals compatible with his condition. Correspondence between his attorney Karine Torn Hibler, from the law office of human rights attorney Gaby Lasky, and the prison doctor shows that Mazhar was treated during the month he was in detention.

Mazhar’s condition deteriorated on Sunday and he was taken to hospital in serious condition, without his family or attorney being notified. He lost consciousness on Monday and was connected to a respirator. A few hours later guards around his bed were removed and his family was shown a release order. The judge, Lt. Col. Avri Einhorn, acceded to the request and ordered his release, emphasizing that he knew Mazhar was in hospital.

“We told the army Hassan was sick and that he couldn’t be in Ofer but they took him,” said Mazhar’s uncle Ahmed. “We sent his medication so he could take it in prison – he always needs to take it.” He said the family had appealed to the court several times, warning about his medical condition. “They said he had thrown stones and we said he was sick. He’s 18 but anyone seeing him thinks he’s ten or eleven” said the uncle. “Fifteen days ago his condition deteriorated – we appealed through a lawyer but got no answer. Two days ago we got a call from the prison. They said he was in bad condition and couldn’t stand or eat and drink, and that they’d taken him to a hospital. We got there and they released him, but now he’s in critical condition.”

The minutes of his detention hearing in April show that his attorney stressed his medical condition and warned that it could deteriorate in jail. “This is a typical case where the enforcement authorities in the territories can’t see beyond the conception that every Palestinian is a terrorist who has no right to receive medical attention,” said Lasky. “In this case it was repeatedly stated that he needs urgent medical care and he still went to the hospital in critical condition. His quick release shows that the army is not taking responsibility and this is unconscionable.” She said her office would charge the army with negligence.

The IDF said that “in April the military court ordered Mazhar’s arrest until the end of legal proceedings. On May 28 his release was ordered on medical grounds.” The army did not say why his detention was required for the duration, and if it was not needed, why he was released only after his condition became critical.