Mohammed Abu Sakha, Palestinian circus trainer, ordered to six more months in prison without charge or trial

abu-sakhaPalestinian circus trainer and performer Mohammed Abu Sakha, 25, was once again ordered to six months in administrative detention, imprisonment without charge or trial, on Sunday, 11 December. Abu Sakha has now been imprisoned for a full year with no charge and no trial; his case has received widespread attention.

He is a circus teacher and performer who works with Palestinian children with disabilities at the Palestinian Circus School. He has toured around Palestine and internationally as part of the circus. Abu Sakha was seized by Israeli occupation forces on 14 December 2015 at the Zaatara military checkpoint, as he attempted to cross while traveling from his home to his workplace in Bir Zeit. Abu Sakha has spent nearly 10 years participating in, performing in, and now working for the circus school, and was scheduled to participate in multiple international circus events at the time of his detention.

The renewal of his detention unfortunately did not come as a surprise, following the public hearing at the Israeli Supreme Court on 5 December, in which the court declared that the “secret file” on Abu Sakha – to which both the detainee himself and his lawyers are denied access – indicated that he “still poses a threat to the security of the state.”

Abu Sakha’s case was raised in a statement on 8 December by the European Union Representative, the EU Heads of Mission and the Heads of Mission of Switzerland and Norway in Jerusalem and Ramallah, who said that “the Heads of Mission in Jerusalem and Ramallah reiterate their longstanding concern about the extensive use by Israel of administrative detention without formal charge. Mohammed Abu Sakha, a trainer at the Palestinian Circus School, has been in administrative detention for almost a year and the decision for a possible extension will be taken within the coming days.”

Abu Sakha’s case has received widespread international attention, in part due to his own wide network of international friends and fellow circus performers. Events and actions in the United States, Canada, Uruguay, Chile, Germany, the UK, Belgium, France, Spain, Portugal and elsewhere have highlighted Abu Sakha’s detention without charge or trial. His case has drawn not only the attention of Palestine solidarity organizers but also of human rights organizations like Amnesty International and circus performers and arts organizations around the world.

This marks the third consecutive administrative detention order against Abu Sakha. Administrative detention orders are issued for one to six months at a time and are indefinitely renewable; some Palestinians have spent years at a time held under administrative detention. There are currently 700 Palestinians held without charge or trial under administrative detention, out of 7,000 total Palestinian political prisoners.

Currently, three Palestinians held under administrative detention are on hunger strike, including Ahmad Abu Fara and Anas Shadid, who have been refusing food for 79 days to demand their freedom from administrative detention. Both are in an extremely critical health condition in Assaf Harofeh hospital and have vowed to continue their strike for freedom. Another hearing on their case before the Israeli Supreme Court is scheduled to take place today, 11 December.  Also on strike is Ammar Hmour, who has refused food for 20 days in protest of the renewal of his administrative detention and is held in solitary confinement in Ashkelon prison.