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Right to Education Campaign, R2E, 8 December 2007
Fadi Hamad, the head of Birzeit University student council has been charged with belonging to an illegal organization and holding a position of responsibility while belonging to this organization. He is currently held in Ofer prison, and will be incarcerated for at least 1 yr on what is a legalistic means to punish young Palestinians engaged in political activity.
Fadi was arrested on Sunday 25 November 2007 by Israeli military Special Forces while on the road linking the al Jalazoon camp with the central West Bank city of Ramallah. On Thursday 6 December he was sentenced to a year imprisonment on the grounds that he belongs to the Islamic Bloc student group, which is officially an illegal organization like any other student group affiliated to a political party (including the Fatah student affiliate ‘Shabiba’).
The sentencing was the result of a previous probation order which demanded that Fadi give up membership to any political party for three years. In December 2004, Fadi was arrested for being a member of the Islamic Bloc and sentenced to 10 months in prison. As he has never been connected with any armed activity, he was released early, in September 2005, on the condition that he does not engage with a student group for the next three years.
“His charge this time was based on a prisoner’s confession obtained by Shin Bet [an Israeli intelligence agency], stating that Fadi was a member of ‘Al Qutleh Islamieh’ [Islamic Bloc] in 2006” said the Right to Education lawyer after the hearing, “but the army only chose to make a case of it now.”
The lawyer explained this is part of a wave of politically-charged arrests (most notably in the last 7 months) which are facilitated by further errosion of the legal process: “They are using Administrative Detention more loosely than usual, not even bothering to claim they have ‘secret evidence’.”
Israeli military laws effectively criminalises all student union activities, which are known to concentrate on the provision of welfare and academic support, and their application breaks down Palestinian political resistance by persecuting some student blocs over others at different moments in time. In Fadi’s case, it is clear he was arrested for his political ideas alone – as there were no charges of connection to an armed movement – and that it is part of a crack-down against political activities by the Islamic Bloc, as well as a warning to all Palestinian students: ‘today it is Fadi, but tomorrow it could be you.’
For background information on this story, please refer to the following articles:
Head of Student Council accused of belonging to an ‘illegal’ organisation
Head of Birzeit Student Council arrested by Israeli army
R2E Fact Sheet