Israel must drop charges against Palestinian lawyer Anas Barghouti

The Israeli authorities must drop all charges against a Palestinian human rights lawyer released on bail last night, Amnesty International has said.

Anas Barghouti, a lawyer with the Addameer Association for Prisoner Support and Human Rights, was released on bail on the orders of a military judge at Ofer Military Court yesterday because confessions from other detainees submitted as evidence failed to prove he is a security threat.

Barghouti had been arrested by the Israeli army more than a month ago (15 September), at a checkpoint north of Bethlehem in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Nine days later he was charged with “membership in the Palestinian Front for the Liberation of Palestine” - an organisation which Israel has banned - and “leadership of a committee to organise demonstrations”.

If convicted on these charges - which he denies - Barghouti faces up to 18 months in prison, in which case Amnesty would consider him a prisoner of conscience, imprisoned solely for his work on behalf of prisoners and the peaceful expression of his political views. The Addameer Association provides legal support to Palestinians held by the Palestinian Authority’s security forces and campaigns for the rights of Palestinians imprisoned by Israel.

'The release of Anas Bargouthi is positive news but he should have never been detained and charged in the first place.

'This release should be a first step towards the authorities ending their harassment of Palestinian human rights defenders.

'It is unacceptable for Israeli authorities to continue to prosecute activists because of their peaceful work in defence of human rights.'
Philip Luther, Amnesty International Middle East and North Africa Director

Barghouti’s arrest is part of a pattern of harassment by the Israeli authorities of Palestinian human rights organisations and activists in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, with individuals suffering arbitrary detentions, restrictions on movement, and raids of homes and offices. For example, last December Israeli security forces raided the offices of Addameer and two other Palestinian NGOs in Ramallah, seizing computers, work files and equipment and ransacking the premises.

Addameer’s chair, Abdullatif Ghaith, a resident of East Jerusalem, has been banned by Israel’s military from entering other parts of the occupied West Bank or travelling abroad since 2011. Meanwhile, on 23 September, a week after the Bargouthi’s arrest, Israeli forces also arrested Samer Arbid, Addameer’s accountant. He was placed in custody for questioning until 21 October and then given a four-month administrative detention order - a military order without charge or trial which can be extended indefinitely.  

Yet another activist from Addameer - Ayman Nasser - was arrested in October last year and charged with offences that included membership of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and carrying out activities in support of Palestinian prisoners. He was convicted of these charges a month later and spent a year in prison after a trial by military court, being released earlier this week. In detention Nasser told his lawyer that he had been tortured during interrogation following his arrest. He said he was interrogated for up to 20 hours every day and that during the interrogations he was kept in a stress position on a chair with his hands tied behind his back.

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