Farhan Alqam, Mayor of Beit Ommar, freed
(For Christina Gibb's interview of Farhan Alqam, see Another face of Hamas)
18 September 2006
On 12 September, CPT learned that the Mayor of Beit Ommar, Farhan Alqam was back home after 15 days detention by the Israeli Defence Forces (see release 27 August Palestine Mayor abducted; CPT visits family, by Dianne Roe).
CPTers Christina Gibb, Cynthia Burnside and Char Smith visited him in his office at the Beit Ommar Municipality on 13 September. The Mayor greeted them with his usual warmth. He said that during the first few days he had been very badly treated.
He had refused to be handcuffed in his house in front of his wife, but he was beaten up in the jeep that took him away, and a soldier had sat on his head and shoulders as they took him to Gush Etzion Police station. He was kept standing outside, blindfolded and with his hands tied with tight plastic, for about 3 hours until sunrise. He compared the beating and humiliations to conditions at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay. He was kept in isolation, unable to speak to any other detainees for the whole day. 16 hours after his violent arrest, they took him to Ofer prison near Ramallah.
The conditions in Ofer, where there are many detainees, were poor. The food was very inadequate in quantity and quality. It is very hard for lawyers to gain access to their clients. Visiting conditions for families are appalling – rare visiting opportunities, long waits, strip searches, very short visiting times, with double plastic and mesh barriers between visitors and detainees. After a week, he was taken to see the investigator. They all had to wait for 9 hours, with no food and no access to a toilet. Their hands were tied in front of them with painfully tight plastic, and they were each shackled by the leg to another detainee. The guards shouted at them often. He had only half an hour with the investigator.
When he appeared before the Military Court, after 14 days, he was accused of ‘illegal activities’ which were a threat to security. He only saw the lawyer, who had been contacted by the Beit Ommar Municipality lawyer, for a few minutes as they were going in to court. Farhan was allowed to speak in his own defence, and explained about his duties and responsibilities to serve his people as Mayor, which took all his time and energies. He said he had taken part in no illegal activities, and asked what these activities were supposed to be. The security services would not disclose this, but asked for a sentence of 2 months imprisonment for him. The judge said if he was a threat to security, the sentence should be longer. After further deliberation the judge showed he believed Farhan, by cancelling the order for his detention. The detective did not appeal this decision, and he was released the next day.