Take Action: Free Ameer Makhoul – Civicus
Name: Ameer Makhoul
Reason behind bars: Ameer has been charged with violating ‘security’ regulations and meeting and conspiring with an alleged Hezbollah agent who allegedly recruited him to engage in espionage against Israel. However, the charges are generally considered to be harassment to prevent him from undertaking his human rights work and the evidence does not support them.
On 6 May 2010, Ameer Makhoul, a Palestinian citizen of Israel and the Director of Israeli Palestinian human rights NGO, Ittijah: Union of Arab Community-Based Associations, was arrested in the middle of the night by Israeli Shin Bet security forces. At the time of his arrest, the Shin Bet confiscated documents, maps, personal family mobile phones, laptops, hard drives from desktop computers, a camera and a tape recorder. Additionally, the same evening the Ittijah office was raided and ransacked, culminating in the confiscation of documents and computers.
Ameer was detained incommunicado for six days following his arrest where he was given no explanation of the charges against him and was denied access to a lawyer. Ameer has been charged with violating “security” regulations; however, the Shin Bet has refused to reveal any evidence or background supporting the charges. Ameer has been accused of meeting and conspiring with an alleged Hezbollah agent while abroad who supposedly recruited him to engage in espionage against Israel.
Leading up to his arrest, on 21 April 2010, while attempting to leave Israel to attend a conference in Jordan, Ameer was prevented from leaving the country and served with a travel ban for two months under Article 6 of the Emergency Regulations (Foreign Travel) of 1948 by the Israeli Ministry of the Interior, Eli Yishai, who claimed that “the exit of Ameer Makhoul from the country poses a serious threat to the security of the state.” On 22 April, a sweeping gag order was issued to prevent Israeli news sources from publishing any news concerning Ameer’s case. Following Ameer’s arrest, a partial lifting of the gag order was allowed so the media could name the accused.
During all of his seven meetings with his lawyers in prison, Ameer was denied his constitutional right to consult with lawyers privately and confidentially. According to Provision 45 of the Prisons Ordinance, clients and lawyers should not be separated, conversations should not be recorded or listened in on and it should be possible for lawyers to exchange documents relevant to the legal proceedings of the case. However, during each of the consultations, communication was only allowed via telephone, separated by a glass screen, or with prison guards listening in to the conversations.
As Philip Luther, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Programme has remarked: “Ameer Makhoul is a key human rights defender, well-known for his civil society activism on behalf of the Palestinian citizens of Israel. His arrest and continued detention smacks of pure harassment, designed to hinder his human rights work. If this is the case, we would regard him as a prisoner of conscience [and] call for his immediate and unconditional release.”
Ittijah: Union of Arab Community-Based Associations is a network of Palestinian NGOs which promotes Palestinian Arab civil society and advocates political, economic and social change for Palestinians who are denied access to infrastructure and services due to discriminatory practices and policies of the Israeli government. Ittijah is also a member of the Affinity Group of National Associations (AGNA) which is facilitated by CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation.
For more information:
- Ameer Makhoul’s blog
- Palestinian human rights activist jailed in Israel
- Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel coverage of Ameer Makhoul’s case
- Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel’s letter to the United Nations regarding the detention of Ameer Makhoul
- Amnesty International’s statement condemning the harassment of Ameer Makhoul
- Free Ameer Makhoul and Omar Said blog
- Ameer Makhoul’s letter from prison
- Letter of Janan Abdu, wife of Ameer Makhoul
- Essay regarding the Israeli Shin Bet and arrest of Ameer Makhoul