Palestinian astrophysics professor Imad Ahmad Barghouthi, 54, was released after over six months of imprisonment by the Israeli occupation on Friday, 4 November.
Barghouthi, who teaches at Al-Quds University in Abu Dis and is a former NASA employee, had been accused of “incitement” for posting political messages and statements on his personal Facebook page. The indictment against him cited the number of “likes” and “shares” his posts received as “evidence” for the charges. These charges were levied against him following initially being ordered to administrative detention without charge or trial when he was arrested at an Israeli occupation checkpoint on 24 April.
The administrative detention order was met with an outcry of hundreds of international academics and scientists who protested the arbitrary imprisonment of their colleague, whose scientific work is internationally known. Following the scientists’ protests, Barghouthi’s administrative detention was ordered reduced to one month, with his release to come on 29 May. However, instead of being released, he was instead transferred to the military courts and charged with “incitement.” He is among hundreds of Palestinians to face similar charges simply for posting public political messages on Facebook or other social media outlets. One particularly infamous case is that of poet Dareen Tatour, who is threatened with years of imprisonment for posting her poetry on YouTube.
Barghouthi had been arrested once before, in December 2014; he was ordered to administrative detention without trial after being seized en route to an academic conference in the United Arab Emirates. As in the later case, an international outcry helped to shorten his administrative detention and secure his release.