On Friday, 10 June, Palestinian-Scottish doctor Issam Hijjawi Bassalat appeared before the Supreme Court of Scotland in a case seeking to reclaim his medical license after it was suspended by the medical board due to his political arrest in 2020. Dr. Bassalat was released on bail in December 2021 after spending 16 months — and suffering a heart attack — behind bars in British prisons in the occupied North of Ireland.
Dr. Bassalat was detained in “Operation Arbacia,” a series of political arrests carried out by British authorities, along with 9 Irish republicans from a political party, Saoradh, which was targeted for infiltration by an MI5 agent, Dennis McFadden. After he was detained at Heathrow Airport on 22 August 2020, he was held in pretrial detention until his heart attack and his December 2021 bail hearing weeks later, despite the severe negative effects of incarceration upon his health.
During his detention, Issam’s licence to practise medicine was suspended by the General Medical Council (GMC) on 26 October 2020 after the charges were 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.
At the 10 June hearing, Dr. Bassalat urged the court to consider the 250 pages of written submissions that have already been made in the case challenging the suspension of his licence to practise medicine. While many people attempted to virtually attend the hearing to show support for Dr. Bassalat, the court changed the link at the last minute, leaving only those who were there very early or who phoned and emailed the court to obtain the new link able to join.
The hearing was continued for a month, so a new session in the case is expected in July. Nevertheless, Dr. Bassalat compelled the lawyer representing the General Medical Council to step back from his earlier claim that he was a “link between Irish terrorists and Palestinian terrorists,” attributing this remark instead to British police and stating that he was not declaring his agreement with the allegation.
Dr. Bassalat, 64, 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.
On Saturday, 11 June, the conference of the Union of Palestinian Associations in Europe affirmed its solidarity with Dr. Bassalat from Berlin, joining a growing number of organizations calling for the prosecution against him to be dropped and the reinstatement of his medical license.
Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network reaffirms our solidarity with Dr. Issam Hijjawi Bassalat. The prosecution against him is a political attempt by the British state to attack international solidarity, specifically Palestinian-Irish anti-colonial solidarity which has spanned decades of joint struggle. Not only is Britain currently colonizing the north of Ireland, the British colonial mandate is directly responsible for the Zionist colonization of Palestine. One of the campaigns Dr. Bassalat was most deeply involved in organizing was for accountability for the Balfour Declaration.
Dr. Bassalat 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, misrepresentation and criminalization. We urge that all charges against Dr. Bassalat be immediately dropped, his medical license be reinstated and that all political prisoners in British jails be released.
We will provide more information on the new court date for Dr. Bassalat and encourage all to attend and support him!