In Unusual Move, Israeli Army Arrests French-American Law Professor in West Bank

Frank Romano was arrested along with two Palestinians while protesting the upcoming demolition of the Bedouin village Khan al-Ahmar, police say ■ IDF allowed to keep him under arrest for up to 96 hours without bringing him to court

Yotam Berger
Yotam Berger
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Protesters demonstrate against the blocking of the road leading to the Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar in the West Bank, September 14, 2018.
Protesters demonstrate against the blocking of the road leading to the Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar in the West Bank, September 14, 2018.Credit: AFP
Yotam Berger
Yotam Berger

A 66-year-old French-American citizen and two other activists were arrested Friday in the West Bank Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar.

According to border police, the three, law professor Frank Romano and two Palestinians, tried to block the road and disrupt soldiers situated near the village, which is slated for demolition.

Exceptionally, the arrest of Romano - a foreign national - was extended by 96 hours under military code rather than civil law. Military code applies to Palestinians and significantly reduces the rights granted to suspects. In comparison, in the Israeli legal system there is a duty to bring a suspect before a judge within 24 hours.

>> Read more: European Parliament Warns: Eviction, Demolition of Khan al-Ahmar Would Be War Crime ■ Explained: Everything You Need to Know About the West Bank Bedouin Village at the Eye of a Diplomatic Storm

Israeli border police arrest French-American law professor and other protesters and activists blocking Israeli army bulldozer operating at the West Bank Bedouin community of Khan al-Ahmar, September 1Credit: Nasser Nasser/AP

Attorney Gaby Lasky, who represents Romano, told Haaretz that this it is very rare for military code to be used for foreign citizens, saying that she had encountered only one such other case in the past. Lasky plans to appeal to the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court to bring the man to a remand hearing.

In a video posted by Jordanian news site Roya News, Romano is seen attempting to block a military bulldozer.

According to Lasky, the justification given to her for Romano being handled under military code is that he was arrested for security offenses in the West Bank alongside Palestinian activists.

Lasky added that although Romano was arrested under the military code, he is being held at Jerusalem's Russian Compound Detention Center and not in Ofer Prison, where military detainees are usually held.

According to Romano's Facebook page, he has been on hunger strike since his arrest at 10.30 P.M. on Friday.

Romano teaches law at the Université Paris Ouest Nanterre La Défense in France.

The village of Khan al-Ahmar was built on state-owned land without construction permits. Israel has suggested that its residents — dozens of Bedouin families of the Jahalin tribe who were expelled from the Negev in the 1950s and lived in the village ever since — move to a nearby Palestinian village.

The residents did not agree to evacuate, and a legal battle then ensued between them and the state, with the Israeli High Court of Justice finally ruling that the residents had to leave and the village could be demolished.

Residents are protesting the fact that the site they were offered to move to is situated in a problematic location: between a garbage dump and an auto scrapyard.

On Thursday, Israel security forces demolished five shacks built near Khan al-Ahmar by Palestinian activists.

Palestine Liberation Organization Secretary General Saeb Erekat said Tuesday that the Palestinians have approached the International Criminal Court in The Hague seeking to launch legal proceedings against Israel over the plans to evacuate the village. The Israeli government has proposed relocating the villagers to a permanent site at Al-Eizariya, near the West Bank settlement of Ma'aleh Adumim, located between a garbage dump and an auto junkyard.

The Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar is located near Route 1 is home to several dozen families from the Jahalin tribe. The tribe originated in the Negev and was expelled to the West Bank in the 1950s. According to aerial photographs and testimonies of the residents of the village, the residents wandered after their expulsion from the Negev to the Jerusalem-Jericho area, in what is now Gush Adumim.

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