#FreeIssam: Join the social media action 2 December + attend virtual court to support British-held Palestinian political prisoner

#FreeIssam Social Media Storm

Thursday, 2 December 2021

10 am Pacific – 1 pm Eastern – 6 pm British time – 7 pm central Europe – 8 pm Palestine

Dr. Issam Hijjawi Bassalat is a Palestinian activist and doctor who was arrested by the British authorities in August 2020 on trumped-up charges stemming from an infiltrator sent to spy on political meetings. On Friday, 3 December, Dr. Issam will appear in the High Court as he and his attorneys appeal the latest denial of his bail application.

Dr. Issam is in a very poor health condition. He has suffered a heart attack and gone through surgery already behind bars. Despite this, British authorities have refused to release him on bail, even though he has now been imprisoned for over a year and there is no indication that his case will soon come to trial.

Join us in a hashtag campaign/Twitterstorm #FreeIssam for the release of Dr. Issam Hijjawi Bassalat on Thursday, 2 December (the day before the hearing) at 8:00 pm occupied Jerusalem time (6:00 pm London time, 7:00 pm central Europe, 10:00 am Pacific time, 1:00 pm Eastern time)

On 3 December at 12 noon British time (7 am Eastern time, 1 pm in central Europe, 2 pm in Palestine), Issam’s bail application will be heard. Just like when political prisoners go to court in person, it is important for people to show up in court to show their support and solidarity and make it clear that this case is the subject of national and international scrutiny.

Please write to us at samidoun@samidoun.net to receive the link to attend the virtual court hearing on Friday, 3 December. Note that during the court hearing, please keep your sound off and display your name, and do not make an audio or video recording of the hearing. Let’s make our voices heard on 2 December and virtually show up in court for the release of Dr. Issam Hijjawi Bassalat! 

Who is Dr. Issam Hijjawi Bassalat?

Dr. Issam Hijjawi Bassalat is a Palestinian political prisoner in British jails. He has been targeted for his commitment to international solidarity and as a political means of repressing both the Palestinian and Irish movements.

Alongside his fellow detainees, the Saoradh 9, he was detained in “Operation Arbacia,” a series of political arrests carried out by British authorities. Today, he remains jailed in the Maghaberry high security prison, in the British-occupied north of Ireland. We call for the immediate release of Dr. Issam Hijjawi Bassalat and all political prisoners in British jails.

He was targeted by an MI5 infiltrator, Dennis McFadden, to attend a bugged meeting with members of Saoradh, an Irish republican socialist political party that advocates for an end to British colonialism and a united Ireland. He was detained on 22 August at Heathrow Airport on the same day that nine members of Saoradh were also arrested by British forces. Throughout the past year, his bail applications have been repeatedly denied, despite serious health issues and the damaging effects of incarceration on his and his fellow detainees’ well-being.

Dr. Hijjawi Bassalat, 62, came to the UK in 1995 to work as a doctor, and he is a well-known, respected member of the Palestinian community in Scotland and the father of four. He previously served as chair of the Association of Palestinian Communities in Scotland (today, the Scottish Palestinian Society) and has been active throughout Europe in advocating for Palestinian rights to return, freedom and justice, speaking frequently at meetings, conferences and events.

Infiltration and MI5 Attacks

“Operation Arbacia” sprang from the decades-long infiltration of Irish republican movements by MI5 agent Dennis McFadden, detailed in a Channel 4 News report. Issam was entrapped into a meeting with McFadden on false pretenses after he was told by British officials that he had to pick up his daughter’s passport renewal in Belfast instead of Glasgow. There, he was invited to what was presented to him as a Saoradh meeting to discuss international solidarity and the Palestinian cause; he had previously spoken to a Saoradh Ard Fheis (annual meeting) about Palestine, an open, public event.

Under the emergency laws still in effect in the north of Ireland, his case will be heard by a judge without a jury.

He is charged with “preparatory acts of terrorism” under the 2006 Terrorism Act, based on his attendance at this meeting engineered by MI5. Issam’s solicitor, Gavin Booth, has seen the transcript of the meeting Issam was compelled to attend, noting that “Everything that’s contained within the transcripts and the recordings is about Palestine, is about peaceful and democratic change. There’s nothing in the transcripts from Dr Bassalat that would support violence in any way.” Despite these facts and the presumption of innocence that is supposed to apply, he has been held on remand for a full year.

Dr. Issam’s Health Crisis

Dr. Issam Hijjawi Bassalat, Palestinian political prisoner in British jails and a medical doctor, suffered a heart attack inside Maghaberry prison on 9 October, only days before his most recent scheduled hearing on an application for bail. Despite his increasingly dire medical circumstances, he remains imprisoned. In fact, the judge hearing his case said that this was not an indication of “changed circumstances,” despite the risk to his life and well-being.

These delays have added yet more time behind bars to a process in which Dr. Bassalat’s lawyer already declared that the evidence will take him at least 63 weeks to review before a trial could be possible. He already experienced surgery while imprisoned after a hunger strike and repeated protests to spur medical treatment for his injured spine. He did not receive adequate space and time for exercise and physical therapy after his surgery, due to his continued imprisonment.

As he appealed for human rights groups to address his case, Dr. Bassalat said in a statement that “all the might of the British Government” has been used against him, “a single individual [who] dared to challenge the British historic role in creating the Palestinian plight through the Balfour Declaration and the 30 years of the British Mandate in Palestine ending in al Nakba – the catastrophe of the Palestinians in 1948.”

Targeting Issam’s Bank Account and Medical License

In addition to his ongoing, unjust imprisonment, pre-trial detention and denied bail, Dr. Hijjawi Bassalat has suffered further injustice. During his detention, his medical care was initially delayed, and then after he finally received necessary surgery, he was denied pain relief and proper therapy. Despite his condition, he continued to be denied bail.

His bank account was frozen, denying him access to funds and creating even more inconvenience and trauma for his family — again, all while he ostensibly retains the presumption of innocence. Issam’s licence to practise medicine was suspended by the General Medical Council (GMC) on 26 October 2020 after the charges filed against him, despite the fact that he has been convicted of nothing and that the charges in no way relate to his fitness to practise medicine or his treatment of his patients.

Issam is being targeted as a Palestinian in an attempt to justify the MI5 infiltration of public political parties and to smear both the Palestinian and Irish struggles through entrapment and misrepresentation. The presumption of innocence is being cast aside for political gamesmanship. We urge the immediate release of Dr. Issam Hijjawi Bassalat and all political prisoners, including the Saoradh 9, detained in British jails.