Protesters gathered near Manhattan’s Union Square on Monday, 11 September in New York City to demand freedom for imprisoned French-Palestinian lawyer, activist and human rights defender Salah Hamouri. Hamouri, 32, is a former Palestinian prisoner released in the Wafa al-Ahrar prisoner exchange in 2011 and a field researcher at Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association. He was seized on 23 August in a pre-dawn raid on his Jerusalem home, only three days after passing the Palestinian bar examination to practice as a lawyer.
Organized by Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network, the protest joined dozens of others that have taken place across France and internationally urging freedom for Hamouri. Hamouri was originally ordered to six months in administrative detention, imprisonment without charge or trial, in an order signed by Israeli ultra-right Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman. Following international outrage, the judge at the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court ordered him instead to three months’ imprisonment – the amount remaining in his first prison sentence when he was released in 2011, in an attempt to legitimize the baseless detention of Hamouri.
Israeli prosecutors have instead appealed the three-month sentence, demanding Hamouri instead be held for six months without charge or trial under the indefinitely renewable administrative detention order. A ruling was expected on 14 September, but has now been delayed once more. However, the campaign to free Hamouri and to pressure the French government to take a clear stand for his release has continued to grow. Several women from France joined the New York City protest, noting that they knew Salah and his family and urging his immediate release.
Protesters in New York carried signs and posters highlighting Hamouri’s case and that of his fellow over 6,200 Palestinians imprisoned in Israeli jails, demanding their release. They also supported the growing international campaign for boycott of Hewlett-Packard products like laptops, tablets, printers and ink due to HP corporations’ extensive contracts with the Israeli military, prison system and checkpoint and identity management system.
Protesting outside of the Best Buy electronics store, participants in the event handed out information to shoppers and passers-by about HP complicity in Israeli human rights violations and profiteering from Israeli apartheid. A growing number of churches and labor unions are declaring themselves HP-free zomes in protest of the company’s continued involvement in some of the most repressive institutions of the Israeli occupation.
Following the protest, a number of participants joined the New York City Jericho Movement’s dinner gathering to write letters to political prisoners in U.S. jails. The evening focused on Herman Bell, who was assaulted last week by prison guards. His family has urged supporters to write to him and show support.
Herman Bell, 69, is a Black Panther Party political prisoner who was attacked by guards at the Great Meadow Correctional Facility on 5 September. Bell was struck in the face by a guard, causing his glasses to fall to the ground. Five to six guards joined in the attack and Herman was repeatedly punched and sprayed all over the face with mace. He has fractured ribs, bruising to his boy and damage to his left eye. He is now being held in the Special Housing Unit, accused of “assault on staff,” claiming that Bell slapped the guard escorting him entirely out of view of all other inmates.
This incident comes after Bell – an elderly man – has not had a disciplinary violation in 20 years and only days before he was scheduled to start a three-day family visit with his wife, their first in over two and one-half years, as reported by the Jericho Movement.
Robert Boyle, Bell’s attorney, has written to the New York State Department of Corrections commissioner Anthony J. Annucci, protesting his assault and mistreatment. Boyle noted that Bell has not received proper medical treatment or a CT scan despite a probable concussion. “The instant incident was not only a racist attack. It was elder abuse. Moreover, there is certainly probable cause to believe these guards committed assault in the first degree, P.L. §120.04 and/or gang assault in the first degree, P.L § 120.07. The law applies to everyone. When prison guards commit violent crimes, they should be prosecuted like anyone else,” Boyle wrote, urging proper, independent medical care for Bell, his return to general population, and the suspension and prosecution of the guards responsible.
Samidoun joins Jericho Movement’s call for people to write to Herman Bell or send him a get-well card so that it is clear that people are aware of his situation and supporting his recovery. His address is:
Herman Bell 79 C 0262
Five Points Cor. Fac.
P.O. Box 119
Romulus, N.Y. 14541
Bell is a Black Panther Party and Black Liberation Movement veteran who is committed to struggles for justice and liberation. He has repeatedly expressed his solidarity with the Palestinian people, including participating in a book of writings for Palestinian political prisoners.
Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network will be protesting again next week, on 18 September, outside Hewlett-Packard in Chelsea. Protesters will gather at 4:30 pm and focus on the case of Issa Amro, facing 18 charges before Israeli military courts and recently detained by the Palestinian Authority under the new repressive “Electronic Crimes Act.” The protest will demand freedom for all Palestinian prisoners and urge the boycott of HP. All supporters of justice for Palestine are invited to attend.