Heavy Prison Sentences for Fatah Members in Gaza for 'Links With Ramallah'

Palestinian human rights organizations condemn sentences as unjust and charges as vague and - and the confessions were made under torture.

A view of Gaza City, January 3, 2017.
Khalil Hamra/AP

A military court in Gaza imposed heavy prison sentences on eight Fatah members last week for “harming revolutionary unity” according to the revolutionary criminal law of the PLO written in Beirut in 1979. The eight men are all members of the Palestinian Authority’s secu rity forces.

Three were sentenced to life imprisonment with hard labor, and the other five were sentenced to between seven and 15 years in prison, also with hard labor.

The sentences for the crimes, which were based on “contacts with Ramallah,” were handed down based on the men’s confessions, even though they all showed signs that the confessions were extracted through torture.

The heavy sentences surprised not only the accused and their families, but also Palestinian human rights organizations, which condemned the sentences as unjust. They called the charges obscure and overly general, and the revolutionary law as unconstitutional and lacking even the minimal standards of international justice.

The Palestinian Center for Human Rights, the oldest human rights organization in the Gaza Strip, said Wednesday it would represent the men in their appeals. Fatah condemned the verdicts as being politically motivated.

The oldest of those convicted, Mohammed Abed al-Khader Ali, 50, from the PA’s Preventive Security Service, was sentenced in absentia to life imprisonment. He is now in the West Bank.

The other seven were arrested in November 2015, but only two of them were held in jail for the entire period since. The others, aged 30 through 44, were released at various stages until the trial ended.

The Palestinian Center for Human Rights said in a press release that the sentences were imposed without even a minimum of fairness and without the right of those convicted to defend themselves. The center said there were clear signs of extracting the confessions using severe torture.

The court appointed defense lawyers for the seven, and one lawyer told the center his clients had clear signs of injuries and stitches on their bodies, and a few were suffering from mental trauma and delirium as a result of their arrests.

The lawyers said their clients’ actions were nothing more than political activities and the confessions were extracted using force, said the center.

Palestinian human rights organizations and lawyers have been battling for years against the custom of Hamas in Gaza, and before it the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah, of using military courts to try civilians.