Palestinian-Italian researcher Khaled al-Qaisi, a translator, researcher and student in the Department of Oriental Languages and Civilizations at Sapienza University of Rome, has been detained by Israeli occupation forces since 31 August. Al-Qaisi, a Palestinian and Italian citizen, was visiting Palestine with his wife and four-year-old son. While leaving Palestine at the bridge to Jordan, he was suddenly seized by occupation forces and handcuffed in front of his young child.
His family and many supporters in Italy note that he has been denied legal visits despite having retained a lawyer and was expected to be brought before an occupation military court on Thursday, 7 September with no opportunity to meet with his lawyer. Al-Qaisi works with the Giovani Palestinesi d’Italia (Palestinian Youth of Italy) and is the co-founder of the Palestinian Documentation Center, a project that works to archive, translate and make accessible Palestinian historical documents, items and works.
Several Italian parliamentarians have spoken out, urging the Italian government to act swiftly to secure al-Qaisi’s immediate release. Stefania Ascari of the Movimento 5 Stella said, “We have appealed to the Minister of Foreign Affairs Antonio Tajani, to the ambassador of Israel in Italy, Alon Bar, and to all the competent authorities to ascertain Khaled’s health conditions and to exert all the necessary pressure for his release. Khaled El Qaisi must be released immediately.”
The Left Green Alliance issued a parliamentary question led by Nicola Fratoianni, stating: “On 31 August last, Khaled El Qaisi, an Italian-Palestinian citizen residing in Rome, married to an Italian citizen and father of a child who is also Italian, was arrested by the Israeli authorities while crossing with his wife and son the ‘Allenby’ border crossing, after spending the holidays in Bethlehem, in Palestine. An incomprehensible arrest on which we ask that the Italian government take action to protect our fellow citizens…we ask the Italian government what urgent initiatives it has taken and intends to take to protect its citizen arrested abroad, to find out the reasons for his detention, to verify if the citizen is guaranteed the rights of a fair trial as provided for by ‘article 111 of the Constitution and article 6 of the European Covenant on Human Rights and in particular the right of defense, as well as to ascertain whether the conditions of detention comply with international standards pursuant to article 27 of the Constitution, article 3 of the ECHR and Article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.”
Francesca Albanese, the UN Special Rapporteur on the occupied Palestinian territories, expressed concern in a tweet:
Desta preoccupazione l’arresto del cittadino italiano Khaled El Qaisi da parte di Israele. In attesa di conoscere i capi d’accusa, le modalità di arresto e detenzione riportate sinora sembrano violare i diritti di El Qaisi, sollevando anche sospetti di discriminazione razziale. https://t.co/apiWIeOxj5
— Francesca Albanese, UN Special Rapporteur oPt (@FranceskAlbs) September 7, 2023
A number of Palestinian community organizations and Italian left parties and collectives have raised their voice to demand El Qaisi’s immediate release, emphasizing that the Italian government must be held accountable for ensuring his freedom.
El Qaisi’s wife and mother circulated an open letter calling for Khaled’s release. We are including the letter below, translated to English.
Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network urges the immediate liberation of Palestinian-Italian researcher, scholar and citizen Khaled El Qaisi. The Italian government and all concerned parties must take immediate action at all levels to ensure his safety and his immediate freedom.
Open letter for the immediate release of the Palestinian-Italian citizen Khaled El Qaisi, prisoner of the Israeli authorities
On 31 August Khaled El Qaisi, husband and son respectively of the writers, was
detained by the Israeli authorities and is still imprisoned by virtue of a precautionary measure pending verification.
Last Thursday, Khaled, who has dual citizenship, Italian and Palestinian,was crossing the ‘Allenby’ border crossing with his wife and son after spending the holidays with his family in Bethlehem, Palestine.
At the luggage and document check, after a long wait, he was handcuffed under the incredulous gaze of his 4-year-old son, his wife, as well as all those who were waiting to resume their journey.
The wife’s requests for explanations were not answered, rather she was asked questions and then sent off with her son to Jordanian territory, without telephone, cash or contacts, in a foreign country.
In the late afternoon, the wife and child were able to reach the Italian Embassy thanks to the human generosity of some Palestinian women.
Khaled, a translator and student of the department of Oriental Languages and Civilisations at the University of Rome, esteemed for his passionate commitment to the collection, dissemination and translation of Palestinian historical material, is one of the founders of the Palestinian Documentation Centre, an association that aims to promote Palestinian culture in Italy.
His family and friends, but also those who simply had the opportunity to meet him, are anxiously waiting for updates.
At the moment, he has not been able to meet his lawyer and there is still little news about his safety.
All we have heard from the consulate and his lawyer is that he will face a hearing on Thursday, 7 September.
In the meantime, we imagine Khaled in complete isolation, with no contact with the outside world, with no real perception of the passage of time, under the pressure of continuous interrogations, anguished about the fate of his own son and his wife left in the lurch with the only image in their eyes of his deportation in handcuffs.
The situation is therefore very serious.
We await with great anxiety the resolution of this unjust imprisonment.
We call on whoever has the power to do so to ascertain Khaled’s health condition and, above all, to exert all necessary pressure for his speedy release.
Francesca Antinucci, wife
Lucia Marchetti, mother