Date of birth: 14 December 1976
Place of residence: Saida, Tulkarem
Occupation: Aluminum light-structures designer and maker
Date of arrest: 9 April 2008
Place of detention: Megiddo Prison
Section 9, Cell # 12
P.O. Box 2424, Israel
Expected end of current administrative detention order: 14 April 2010
Number of orders: Three
ARREST AND TRIAL
A few minutes after midnight on 9 April 2008, a large number of Israeli military jeeps surrounded Loai’s family home in the village of Saida near the West Bank city of Tulkarem. After they conducted a search of the house, Loai was blindfolded, shackled and arrested by Israeli Occupying Forces (IOF) soldiers. Loai was then transferred to Salem Detention Center by military jeep and immediately subjected to four consecutive interrogation sessions. At the end of his investigation period, Loai was detained pending trial.
A few months later, Loai was charged with offences relating to allegations of membership of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad Party, a political party Israel declared illegal on 6 June 1989, “helping an illegal organization”, and helping “wanted” individuals. He was sentenced to an 11-month prison term which he served in Megiddo Prison.
First administrative detention order
On 20 January 2009, a military commander issued a six month administrative detention order against Loai set to begin on 15 February 2009, on the basis that he posed a threat to the “security of the area” by virtue of his alleged active membership of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad movement. Loai was only informed of this administrative detention order on 15 February 2009 – the day of his scheduled release, after he had packed his personal belongings and reached the prison gates to leave. Loai was re-arrested at the prison gates and again placed in detention.
In the judicial review of Loai’s administrative detention order, the military prosecutor submitted that, despite having served his sentence, Loai poses an ongoing threat to the security of the area. According to the prosecution, the “secret information” on which prosecutors based this claim related to Loai’s alleged activities well prior to his arrest in 2008. However, Loai’s defense counsel was not permitted access to the secret information, and the prosecution refused to answer the defense’s inquiries as to why Loai was only arrested in April 2008 if the content of the secret material comprised information relating to 'security risk’ events in 2007. Furthermore, prosecutors failed to address why Loai was not tried for these activities in his 2008 trial. The prosecution also refused to address the defense’s contention that the timing of Loai’s arrest and administrative detention order – which coincided with a scheduled court hearing concerning a compensation claim Loai filed relating to his torture during Israeli interrogation in 2005 – suggested that the order was not about “security” at all. In his complaint for this claim, Loai related how the torture he endured at the hands of an Israeli Security Agency (ISA) officer during interrogation in 2005 resulted in the permanent paralysis of his left leg. Loai’s complaint also seeks compensation for his family for the death of his brother, who was killed by Nahshon and Metzada Unit officers during a raid of Ketziot Prison on 22 October 2007.
In his decision at the review, the military judge did not address the convenient timing of Loai’s arrest and the issue of Loai’s complaint seeking compensation, and stated only that the secret information indicated that Loai is a member of Islamic Jihad and that he took part in military activities. However, the judge did not specify whether these military actions took place before his arrest in 2008. This omission is legally problematic as it is unlawful under both Israeli and international law for administrative detention to be used as a substitute for prosecution.(1) Given the similarity in the charges for which Loai was sentenced in 2008 and the justifications for his administrative detention, Loai’s case raises questions as to whether the administrative detention order against him was in actuality further or substitute punishment for activities for which he was or could have been tried in 2008.
Further, the judge determined that although Loai’s debilitating leg injury prevents him from conducting military activities, it does not prevent him from working with a political organization or “supporting terrorism”. The judge therefore confirmed Loai’s administrative detention order for the entire length of the period requested by the military commander.
Second administrative detention order
Immediately upon the expiration of the first administrative detention order, a second six-month order was issued against Loai, set to expire on 13 February 2010. At the judicial review of Loai’s second administrative detention order, the prosecution informed the court that it had new secret information implicating Loai, in the form of two statements of other detainees, but that this alleged material was insufficient for an indictment. Defense counsel was again denied access to the secret information.
The military judge agreed that Loai should not be charged. Instead the judge confirmed that the secret information points to Loai’s involvement in the Islamic Jihad movement and that there is “real danger” to the security of the area because of his activities. The judge shortened the administrative detention order to four months on the basis that Loai had already detained for a lengthy period, but did not impose any restrictions on future renewals of the order.
Third administrative detention order
At the expiration of the second administrative detention period, the military commander issued, and the judicial review military judge upheld, the imposition of a third order. Again, Loai’s defense counsel was not permitted to examine the secret information 'justifying’ his continued detention. The third order is due to expire on 14 April 2010.
Addameer submits that this denial of a defendant’s right to confront the 'evidence’ against them, all-too typical of administrative detention hearings, and renders the task of mounting a legal defense impossible. Moreover, Addameer contends that Loai Ashqar’s case is a prime example of Israel’s use of administrative detention as an arbitrary rather than preventative measure, and as punishment for past alleged offenses in the absence of sufficient evidence to lay charges. The timing of his arrest casts serious doubts over the lawfulness of the administrative detention since it suggests that the prolongation of his detention was intended to frustrate his legal action against the ISA rather than a measure to address a 'security threat’.
Like many Palestinian youth, Loai was arrested several times when he was still in high school. Each time he spent one to two months in prison. Arrests of youth and children are particularly widespread and indiscriminate as part of the IOF’s highly aggressive military campaigns to quell popular Palestinian protest.
On 12 March 2003, at the age of 26, Loai was sentenced to a year in prison; he was arrested again on 22 April 2005, at the age of 28, and received a 24 month prison term. During that sentence, Loai was held in Ketziot together with his brother, Mohammad.
On 22 October 2007, at approximately 1:30 a.m., sections C1, C2, and C3 of Keztiot Prison were raided by the Nahshon and Metzada Units, special intervention units known for their use of violent tactics against Palestinian prisoners. The Units opened fire at the prisoners with rubber-coated steel bullets and plastic high-speed projectiles that result in welts to the skin. Those prisoners who were dragged by officers outside the sections were shackled and beaten with clubs. Then the officers used sound bombs, setting some of the tents on fire. Approximately 250 prisoners were injured during the raid. Loai’s brother Mohammad sustained a head injury during the raid and died as a result of delays in the provision of medical treatment. Mohammad was due to be released just 50 days after the incident took place.
At 3:00 a.m. on 22 April 2005, Israeli forces surrounded Loai’s family home. Loai related that the family was woken by the sound of gunfire and stun grenades as Israeli soldiers entered the home by force. The soldiers arrested Loai, who was then blindfolded, handcuffed and shoved face-down on the floor of a military jeep and taken to Kishon Interrogation Center.
At Kishon, Loai was brought before eight interrogators, who tried to coerce him into confessing. Loai’s rights were not explained to him. One of the interrogators threatened Loai by telling him:
This time, you either tell us what we want, or get out of prison with permanent disability and you will wish to die.
Loai was also subjected to severe physical torture under interrogation in Kishon, including the prolonged use of the 'banana’ position, in which detainees are tied while bent backwards over the seat of a chair. In this painful stress position, Loai was forced to bend his back to the point that his head touched the ground while tied to a chair with his hands shackled. During one extended interrogation session, he remained in this position for three consecutive days. He was also deprived of food, and interrogators threatened both him and his family with violence.
As a result of this torture, three vertebrae in his spine were broken. Israeli authorities subsequently failed to provide Loai with adequate medical treatment for this injury, and, as a result, this led to complete paralysis of his left leg.
In 2007, B’Tselem conducted a video interview
with Loai where he discusses at length the torture Israeli interrogators used against him during this period.
Current health status
Although Loai suffers from complete paralysis of his left leg as a result of the torture he endured at the hands of prison interrogators in 2005, the ISA has denied him permission to travel abroad for medical treatment. He only learned of this refusal to travel through the District Coordinating Office in Tulkarem after he had submitted all the necessary preparatory documents. Instead, Loai underwent surgery for the reconstruction of his bones while in prison, but the surgery was only partially successful. At present Loai does not receive adequate ongoing medical treatment. Loai filed a lawsuit against the Israeli State through Attorney Bishara Jabali, claiming that adequate medical care would have significantly mitigated his injuries.
A doctor recommended that Loai should use a wheelchair but since the prison does not have one and refuses to buy one Loai is forced to use crutches. Loai also suffers from severe stress-related hair loss due to his paralysis and general health condition.
Loai is currently held in section nine of Megiddo Prison, where he shares a cell with seven other administrative detainees. The room is located on the second floor, causing him difficulty in moving from his cell to the recreation area and showers. There are five bunk beds in the cell. The cell also contains a small bathroom measuring 1 by 1.2 meters, comprising a sink and a squat toilet. Loai finds it extremely difficult to use the toilet as his disability prevents him from bending his legs and balancing in the squat position. He is constantly at risk of falling and injuring himself. The showers are located outside the cells; detainees are only permitted to use them during recreation time which lasts only two hours per day. There are only five showers for 120 to 200 detainees. As all detainees in the different sections have their recreation time at the same time, there is not enough hot water for everyone.
Most Palestinian administrative detainees in Israel are held in either Ketziot or Ofer. Incarceration in Megiddo is an added hardship for administrative detainees due to the remoteness of the prison from the Court of Administrative Detainees in Ofer where reviews of administrative detention orders are conducted. Loai’s requests for transfer to another prison have been consistently rejected. As a consequence of the distance from Megiddo to Ofer, and the fact that hearings begin in the morning, when Loai is required to attend a judicial review hearing he must stay overnight in the “Transit” section at Ramla detention facilityThe amenities in the Transit section are very basic. Detainees are not permitted to eat their own food; instead they are provided with meals of very poor quality. Rather than beds, prisoners sleep on filthy mattresses, may not bring any reading material or other personal belongings (including medications), have no access to radio or television, and do not have recreation time.
While in Megiddo where he is detained, Loai often files complaints to the prison administration on behalf of other detainees relating to their ill-treatment. Loai believes that his frequent transfers between sections of the prison are punishment for these advocacy activities. On one occasion a security officer in Megiddo Prison beat him and threatened that he would kill him one day if he did not stop making such complaints. The threats also extend to Loai’s family: the Israeli Area Commander in Saida, Loai’s home village, told Loai’s brother recently that he (Loai’s brother) will soon be “crying over his children’s lives”.
Loai has also complained to Addameer that his canteen account is currently frozen as a punitive measure. Loai submitted a petition to the Israeli Prison Service (IPS), but the petition to reinstate his canteen account was refused. As a result of having no access to the canteen and the severe restrictions on family visits, Loai does not have enough clothes.
When Loai was arrested in 2008, his wife was two months pregnant with their first son, Areen. Having been classified a “security threat”, Loai’s wife is only given a special permit to exit the occupied Palestinian territory and visit Loai at Megiddo Prison once every six months. Loai thus saw his son for the first time in May 2009, but was barred from physical contact with him despite the IPS typically allowing a child under six years old to go to the detainee’s side of the visiting area for the final fifteen minutes of the visit. After the IPS categorically forbade him from holding his son, even though Loai tried to explain that it was the first time he had met Areen, Loai kissed the glass divider to get as close to his son as possible.
Both Loai’s parents as well as his four brothers and five sisters are currently denied regular visiting permits on “security grounds”. They may visit Loai only once every six months on a special permit. The lack of regular family visits only increases Loai’s sense of isolation.
Loai took his Tawjihi exam in prison in 1997. After his release Loai began vocational training in aluminum production offered by the Palestinian Ministry of Social Affairs. After completing the course, Loai opened his own aluminum production business, which he ran with two of his brothers, Mohammad who died in the Ketziot prison raid and a second brother.
Before his latest arrest, Loai had planned to develop the manufacturing department and become a wholesaler. Since Mohammad’s death and Loai’s detention, however, production at the plant has ceased and workers no longer attend work.
Administrative detention is a procedure that allows the Israeli military to hold detainees indefinitely on secret information without charging them or allowing them to stand trial. In the occupied Palestinian West Bank, the Israeli army is authorized to issue administrative detention orders against Palestinian civilians on the basis of Military Order 1591. This order empowers military commanders to detain an individual for up to six month renewable periods if they have “reasonable grounds to presume that the security of the area or public security require the detention.” On or just before the expiry date, the detention order is frequently renewed. This process can be continued indefinitely.
Here is how you can help Loai Ashqar:
- Send Loai letters of support to his postal address in prison
- Write to the Israeli government, military and legal authorities and demand that Loai be released immediately and that his administrative detention not be renewed.
- Write to your own elected representatives urging them to pressure Israel to release Loai and to put an end to such an unjust, arbitrary and cruel system of incarceration without trial.
For more information about Addameer’s Campaign to Stop Administrative Detention please visit our website www.addameer.info
, or contact us directly:
Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association
P. O. Box: 17338, Jerusalem, Israel
Tel: +972 (0)2 296 0446 / 297 0136
Fax: +972 (0)2 296 0447
1 On 20 April 2000, the Israeli High Court of Justice issued a judgment on state-sponsored hostage-taking in which it ruled that administrative detention is impermissible where the person does not pose a future danger to State security, and must not be used as punishment for offenses committed in the past: Further Hearing [F.H.] 7048/97 Anon. v. Minister of Defence, 54(1) P.D. 72 (20 Apr. 2000) (Heb.).