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Israel: Continued detention of human rights defender Mr Ameer Makhoul
On 25 May 2010, human rights defender Mr Ameer Makhoul's detention was extended, for a fourth time, until 28 May 2010. Ameer Makhoul serves as the General Director of Ittijah – The Union of Arab Community-Based Associations, an NGO which holds consultative status with the UN.
Ameer Makhoul also serves as Chairman of the Public Committee for the Defence of Political Freedom in the framework of the High Follow-up Committee for Arab Citizens of Israel.
In this position, he engages primarily in monitoring, and denouncing restrictions on the political freedoms of the Arab citizens in Israel, including their leaders. Front Line previously issued a news item regarding his detention on 13 May 2010.
On 25 May 2010 in a hearing at Petah Tikva Magistrate's court, Ameer Makhoul's detention was extended until 28 May 2010. The prosecutors reportedly announced at the hearing that Ameer Makhoul would be charged on 28 May 2010 at Haifa District Court.
Ameer Makhoul was originally arrested on 6 May 2010 on suspicion of consorting with a Hezbollah agent. His house was raided by 16 Israeli Security Agency (ISA) agents, who reportedly also confiscated documents and computers belonging to Ameer Makhoul, his wife, and daughters.
Since that point, Ameer Makhoul's detention has been renewed on four occasions and he was consistently denied access to his lawyers, to the extent that they threatened not to participate in a hearing planned for 17 May 2010, due to “utter lack of respect for due process”. Consequently, Ameer Makhoul was first granted access to his lawyers on the evening of 17 May 2010.
As a result of Mr. Makhoul's classification as a “security detainee”, he is exposed to harsh conditions of confinement and continuous investigation by the General Security Services (GSS). Concerns have also been raised about Ameer Makhoul's treatment while in detention. After meeting with him, Ameer Makhoul's attorneys reported that he appeared exhausted and had been subjected to intensive, around-the-clock interrogations. He also reportedly complained of pains and dizziness, and claimed to have been visited by a prison doctor.
An initial gag order banning any publication of Ameer Makhoul's arrest or detention in Israel was partially lifted on 10 May 2010. A partial gag order remains in place, however, which bans his lawyers from publishing any details regarding the case, his ongoing interrogation, his health status or medical records. Said order, which also prevents Amer Makhoul's family from visiting him or accessing information regarding his physical condition, is due to expire on 27 May 2010.
Ameer Makhoul's case has been connected with that of Dr Omar Said, another Palestinian citizen of Israel and a high-profile academic and social and political activist from Kufr Kina village, who was arrested at the King Hussein Border Crossing on his way to Jordan on 24 April 2010.
Media sources have reported that both Ameer and Dr. Said were arrested on suspicions of spying and contact with a foreign agent from Hezbollah. However, credible resources believe that these reports are based on fabrications employed to allow for the detention and intimidation of both Ameer and Dr. Said.
Front Line believes that the detention of Ameer Makhoul is directly related to his work in defence of human rights. Front Line is concerned for the physical and psychological integrity of Ameer Makhoul in detention.