Palestinian leftist organizer Shaher al-Rai was released after two years of imprisonment under “administrative detention” without charge or trial on Sunday, 23 April, where he was met with a warm reception in his home city of Qalqilya.
He was seized alongside fellow prominent Palestinian leftist Jamal Barham on 3 June 2015 in raids on their home by occupation military forces. Al-Rai was interrogated about “membership in an illegal organization,” the leftist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, but he refused to confess; he was shortly thereafter ordered to administrative detention. He has been arrested seven times, including three stints in administrative detention, and imprisoned for over 12 years in total.
Al-Rai is married to Palestinian activist Manal al-Rai and they have three children, Jarrah, 24, Wajla, 20, and Kanaan, 5. Manal al-Rai spoke about the impact of her husband’s administrative detention on their young son in this video from Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association:
Earlier, Al-Rai was imprisoned by Palestinian Authority security forces for multiple years after he and his cousin were implicated in a false affidavit given by a Palestinian prisoner under Israeli torture. The confession was proven false by incontrovertible evidence and the Palestinian who made the confession under torture released and later compensated by Israeli intelligence, in an unusual case. Nevertheless, al-Rai remained held in PA prison for years after the discrediting of the confession, and released only after a widespread campaign.
Al-Rai was joined in the celebration of his release in Qalqilya by Yousef Shteiwi, released from Israeli prisons on Sunday evening, 23 April, after nine years in Israeli jails. Shteiwi spent four years in Israeli prison before being released in 2011 in the Wafa al-Ahrar prisoner exchange; only months later, in 2012, he was re-arrested and the five remaining years of his sentence reimposed.
Al-Rai and Shteiwi went to the prisoner support tent for the hunger strikers set up in Qalqilya to express their support for their 6,500 fellow prisoners trapped behind Israeli bars. “Popular support is important, when the streets rose up for our victory, the treatment of the prison administration changed, and we could see how the prison administration gave in to our demands,” Shteiwi said, urging action to support the hunger strikers.
At the same time, Palestinian prisoner support activist and journalist Osama Shaheen had his imprisonment without charge or trial renewed, as a new “administrative detention” order was issued for four months against him, for the third consecutive time. Shaheen, 34, has been imprisoned since 1 September 2016, when Israeli occupation forces invaded his home in al-Khalil, interrogating him about his role in prisoner support work before taking him to Ofer prison. He was swiftly ordered to administrative detention. Shaheen has spent in total over eight years in Israeli prisons; he is the director of the Palestine Center for Prisoners’ Studies.