RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- The Palestinian Magistrate’s Court in Ramallah on Thursday ruled to release six Palestinians that had been detained by the Palestinian Authority (PA) for over five months without charge.
Basil al-Araj, 33, Mohammed Harb, 23, Haitham Siyaj, 29, Mohammed al-Salamen, 19, Ali Dar al-Sheikh, 21, and Seif al-Idrissi, 26, have all been held by the PA since late March and early April 2016. They are to be released on personal guarantees pending further proceedings, according to Palestinian prisoners’ rights group Addameer.
The six launched a hunger strike between Aug. 28 and Sep. 6 in protest of their unlawful detention. After being detained more than five months without charges being brought against them, the Magistrate's Court on Tuesday issued a list of charges, and the men suspended their hunger strikes.
The case sparked solidarity protests in demand of their immediate release amid reports of torture of the detainees and accusations of security coordination between the PA and Israel
in the wake of their arrest.
According to Palestinian prisoner solidarity network Samidoun, hundreds also signed an international petition demanding their release, while many more phoned and wrote to local Palestinian embassies to call for the release of the six.
Al-Araj, Harb, and al-Siyaj were detained on April 10
while walking near Ramallah, after the three had been reported missing by their families for ten days.
While initial reports said the three would be questioned by PA security before being returned to their families, PA police later revealed they had been found with weapons, hand grenades, and camping equipment, allegedly to be used in a future attack on Israel.The three others, al-Salamen, Dar al-Sheikh, and Idrissi, were reportedly detained around the same time period.
Criticism mounted that the case marked an escalation of the PA’s “security coordination” with Israel, of funneling Palestinians from PA jails into Israeli prisons.
Meanwhile, Israel’s policy of administratively detaining Palestinians without charge or trial under undisclosed evidence has been condemned by international bodies and rights groups for years. However as the Geneva-based Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor noted
in the wake of the detention of the six men by the PA without charge, such a policy is illegal under Palestinian law.
A Palestinian court extended the remand of the six detainees three times since May under the pretext that investigations were still ongoing. The court refused to release them under any circumstances saying that releasing them would harm public security, echoing Israel’s justification for administrative detention.
Palestinian security services have also said they detained the young men to “protect them from detention by Israeli forces.”
Both Euro-Mediterranean Monitor and Addameer reported the six had been “severely tortured” and mistreated by officers in Beitunia detention center -- including sitting in stress positions, sleep deprivation, continued interrogation, beating all over the body, insults, and denial of using bathroom -- to force confessions to the undisclosed charges.