Israeli occupation arrests Basil al-Araj’s brother, continues to persecute his comrades

Photo: Saeed al-Araj, Twitter: @paldf

On Monday, 10 December, Israeli occupation forces seized Saeed al-Araj, the brother of slain Palestinian youth activist Basil al-Araj, from his home in Al-Walaja village. This arrest came only days after Haitham Siyaj and Seif al-Idrissi, two Palestinian youth activists who have been repeatedly pursued by Israeli occupation forces since they were initially imprisoned by the Palestinian Authority with al-Araj, had their imprisonment without charge or trial confirmed by an Israeli military court. 

The two were held under harsh interrogation for 44 days at the Moskobiyeh interrogation center, during which Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association reported that they were subject to torture and ill treatment, including sleep deprivation, lengthy interrogation sessions, the use of stress positions and threats against themselves and their families. In addition, occupation forces seized Haitham’s mother and brought her to the interrogation center in order to put further pressure and attempt to extract confessions from him. 

Haitham Siyaj and Seif al-Idrissi. Phot: Addameer

Failing to do so despite these tactics, the occupation military commander over the West Bank ordered Haitham Siyaj to six months in administrative detention, imprisonment without charge or trial, on 21 October. On 24 October, Seif al-Idrissi received the same detention order, and they have been held without charge or trial since that time. The military court confirmed both of their administrative detention orders on 4 December.

Both al-Idrissi and Siyaj have been detained on multiple occasions. Neither has been charged or tried; instead they have been ordered to administrative detention without charge or trial. Administrative detention orders are indefinitely renewable, and Palestinians have spent years at a time jailed under these orders, which are used especially against leading activists and political figures like Palestinian legislator and feminist Khalida Jarrar.

Photo: Basil al-Araj

Basil al-Araj was assassinated by Israeli occupation forces on 6 March 2017 after being pursued for months by these occupation soldiers. He was known as a youth leader and intellectual who wrote prolifically about the Palestinian cause, participating in protests, demonstrations and transnational mobilizations for boycott and against Israeli apartheid. In April 2016, al-Araj and five other Palestinian youth, including Siyaj and al-Idrissi as well as Mohammed al-Salameen, Mohammed Harb and Ali Dar al-Sheikh, were seized by Palestinian Authority forces in what was then hailed as a victory for security coordination between the PA and Israel.

During their time in PA prison, they were subjected to torture and ill-treatment and launched a hunger strike after almost six months held behind bars. They were detained without charge for most of that time. Shortly after their release, four of the youth – Siyaj, al-Idrissi, Harb and al-Salameen – were seized by Israeli occupation forces and ordered to administrative detention. Throughout this time, al-Araj remained outside their grasp, although armed occupation forces repeatedly invaded his family home in the pre-dawn hours.

Photo: New York protest demands justice for Basil al-Araj. Credit: Joe Catron

When occupation forces attacked the apartment where al-Araj was staying in El-Bireh, he resisted their attack for two hours and refused to turn himself over to them. He was shot by at least 10 bullets, in his heart, back, chest, rib cage, abdomen, liver and spleen. Thousands of Palestinians marched in his funeral, and Palestinians and solidarity activists around the world organized protests to demand an end to PA security coordination with Israel. Outrage against the PA only deepened when the five surviving youth – and even al-Araj – were charged with dubious political charges in PA courts while being held in administrative detention, charges that were eventually dropped after mass protests.

Since that time, the al-Araj family and Basil’s comrades have been repeatedly subject to persecution and attacks by occupation forces; these administrative detention orders and the arrest of Said al-Araj are part and parcel of these same repressive tactics.