Over 100 people gathered in Toulouse, France on 8 September at the call of an array of political parties and Palestine solidarity organizations to demand the release of French-Palestinian lawyer, human rights defender and political prisoner Salah Hamouri and his fellow Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli jails. The protest came only days before Hamouri will be brought before an Israeli court once again, as an Israeli prosecutor argues that his three-month sentence is too low.
Participants in the Toulouse protest included Coup Pour Coup 31, anti-imperialist collective and Samidoun affiliate, as well as BDS Toulouse, OCML VP, the NPA, Ensemble!, the Association France-Palestine Solidarite and many more. They also carried signs highlighting France’s imprisonment of Georges Ibrahim Abdallah, Lebanese Communist struggler for Palestine, demanding his release and urging participation in the 21 October national rally in Lannemezan.
Hamouri, 32, a former prisoner released in the Wafa al-Ahrar exchange, was seized by occupation forces in his home outside Jerusalem in a pre-dawn raid on 23 August. The attack came only three days after Hamouri passed the Palestinian bar examination to practice law in Palestine. He is a field researcher with Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association and has spoken around the world in defense of Palestinian prisoners.
Hamouri is a French-Palestinian citizen, and his French wife, Elsa Lefort, has been banned from Palestine by the Israeli occupation after being denied entry while pregnant with her and Salah’s son. Lefort has been an active and prominent defender of her imprisoned husband, appearing at events across France and participating in numerous television and radio interviews. Hamouri’s supporters have urged the French government to take action to release their fellow citizen.
After his arrest, Hamouri was quickly issued an order, signed by ultra-right Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, for six months imprisonment without charge or trial under administrative detention. Nearly 500 Palestinians are jailed under these indefinitely renewable administrative detention orders, among 6,200 Palestinian political prisoners in total.
However, on 5 September, rather than approving the administrative detention order, the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court re-imposed the three months of Hamouri’s sentence that remained when he was released in 2011. This arbitrary sentence, while shorter than the six-month order, seems to have come as a response to international pressure and in an attempt to legitimize the widely-criticized imprisonment of Hamouri, a well-known human rights defender.
As Addameer pointed out, Hamouri remains vulnerable to a new administrative detention order imposed after the expiration of the three month sentence, and any such arbitrary sentence – regardless of the length – is a basic and unacceptable violation of human rights. “Addameer again emphasizes that Salah’s arrest and subsequent detainment represents an egregious attack by the occupation against the work of human rights defenders in Palestine,” the organization noted.
However, the Israeli prosecution has appealed the sentence, demanding instead that a six-month administrative detention order be imposed on Hamouri. The Israeli court will convene on this appeal again on 12 September, where Salah Hamouri will again be faced with an extended sentence of imprisonment with no charge and no trial.
Protests across France have demanded Hamouri’s release. A new Committee to Support Salah Hamouri was formed in Paris on the evening of 5 Septemer, and protests continued across the country. In Lyon, France, on 9 September, the Collectif 69 de Soutien au Peuple Palestinien protested in the center of Lyon, gathering over 150 people to demand freedom for Hamouri.
During the protest, speakers discussed Hamouri’s arrest and the ongoing travesty of administrative detention, re-imposed sentences and Israeli “justice.” They noted the situation of all Palestinian prisoners as well as the concerted attacks and ethnic cleansing against the Palestinian population of Jerusalem, where Salah Hamouri lives.
Many people signed a petition to demand Salah Hamouri’s freedom and over 1,500 leaflets were distributed. Earlier, on 7 September, in Avignon, activists distributed leaflets and carried signs and banners demanding freedom for Salah Hamouri. Political parties, including the French Communist Party and Jeunes Communistes as well as Palestine solidarity activists joined the protest demanding his release.
Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network reiterates its urgent demand for the immediate release of Salah Hamouri and all Palestinian prisoners and call for the French state to defend the rights of their citizen and take action for Salah Hamouri’s freedom. It is no less critical now; it must be made clear that it is unacceptable to imprison Hamouri – or any other Palestinian – without charge or trial. This is clearly an attempt on the part of the Israeli state to target an effective, local and international human rights defender working for Palestinian freedom.
The French state must take real action to demand freedom for Salah Hamouri, the Palestinian human rights defender. From the jails and the courts of the occupation to the cities and campuses of the world, he is a consistent and clear voice against oppression and for liberation. Free Salah Hamouri! Libérez Salah Hamouri!
1. SIGN this petition to French president Emanuel Macron and European officials. Demand that they act now to free Hamouri: https://www.change.org/p/emmanuel-macron-demand-the-immediate-release-of-human-rights-defender-salah-hamouri
2. SIGN this French-language petition to the French government to demand they act for Hamouri’s freedom: http://liberezsalahhamouri.wesign.it/fr
3. LIKE AND SHARE the Facebook page for Salah Hamouri, which will be regularly updated with news and actions to demand Salah’s freedom: https://www.facebook.com/freesalahhamouri/
5. DEMAND the Israeli occupation release Salah. Take action in the alert from Addameer: http://addameer.org/news/take-action-demand-israeli-officials-immediately-release-salah-hamouri