No positive evidence supporting accusations against Ameer Makhoul
On May 8th, Jewish Peace News posted news of the arrest or, more precisely, abduction, of human rights defender Ameer Makhoul, "Director of Ittijah – The Union of Arab Community-Based Associations – … in the dead of night, while he and his family slept in their home in Haifa." The arrest of this "Israeli citizen [and] … high-profile activist … [was] placed under a gag order … Israeli reporters, news outlets and even blogs" were forbidden from writing about it. On June 20th, JPN followed up with a letter from Makhoul, composed after he "had spent 3 weeks in prison without access to even pen and paper, not to speak of lawyers, family visits, due process, humane and legal conditions."
Makhoul has been in prison for five months now. Amnesty International has described his imprisonment as: "pure harassment designed to hinder his human rights work." His trial is viewed by many as "a message to Palestinian citizens of Israel ... formulated by extreme right wing parties in the current Israeli government" that have targeted Makhoul as "a legal, legitimate, and effective voice of a politically disadvantaged group – Israel's Palestinian Arab citizens. This, I might add, is the same government that is now poised to demand that applicants for citizenship (predominantly Palestinian ones) take an oath of loyalty to the "Jewish and democratic" state.
For further background and details on Makhoul's abduction, detention incommunicado, and on what the Committee for the Defense of Ameer Makhoul describes as his "tortuous interrogation" – deprived of sleep and crucial medical care, see: http://freeameermakhoul.blogspot.com/.
For months now, Makhoul has been standing trial for alleged espionage, after being told in 2009 by Israel's secret services that if he failed to tone down his political and human rights activism, they would "tailor a file for … [his] disappearance and prolonged separation from his family." Trial sessions have been attended by representatives of the EU and the Netherlands.
The update below, from Janan Abdu, underlines the bogus nature of the charges against Makhoul, citing (among other things) the September 16th "testimony … of Yeshai Cohen, the expert police computer investigator who confirmed in court that he found no incriminating evidence against Ameer despite the fact that he had been under surveillance for one and a half years before his arrest including over thirty thousand phone calls."
The Committee for the Defense of Ameer Makhoul is now "working to mobilize legal and medical international observers for the trial … and to raise funds to cover lawyer fees and related expenses." Detailing how solidarity and painstaking work has crumbled the original gag order and successfully challenged aspects of Makhoul's imprisonment and trial, they add, "We need your help to make our efforts even more effective … At this critical moment, we ask for your direct involvement in the campaign for his freedom. Ameer's trial is scheduled to proceed Tuesday October 5th. The time is now for you to get involved."
From: janan abdu [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Thursday, October 07, 2010 8:27 AM
To: Undisclosed recipients:
Subject: The Police has no positive evidence that connects Ameer to the accusations against him
The Police has no positive evidence that connects Ameer to the accusations against him
Representatives of the EU and the Embassy of the Netherlands attend the court session to follow the proceedings closely
The last session of the case against Ameer Makhoul was held at the Haifa District Court on October 5, 2010. The testimony of the prosecutors' witnesses heard in this session continued to put the core grave accusations against Ameer in doubt and to shake their foundation. None of the testimonies in this and in the previous session succeeded in any way to connect Ameer to any of the accusations against him. None of the five witnesses, Arab youth and university students who, according to the prosecutors' claims were approached by Ameer to "enlist them in the service of Hizballah" had any hint of evidence that could possibly be interpreted as connecting Ameer to any of the accusations against him. Neither did the testimony of his family physician and his travel agent.
This is in addition to the failed testimony on September 16, 2010 of Yeshai Cohen, the expert police computer investigator who confirmed in court that he found no incriminating evidence against Ameer despite the fact that he had been under surveillance for one and a half years before his arrest including over thirty thousand phone calls from land lines and mobile phones at his home and office. Likewise, no positive evidence against Ameer was found in all the over ten desktop and mobile computers taken from Ameer's home and office and which remain with the Police to this day.
Of special significance was the presence at the court of such public figures as Dr. Hatim Kanaaneh, head of the Public Committee for the Defense of Ameer Makhoul, Israeli Parliament member Dr. Ahmad Tibi and veteran labor leader Benjamin Gonin. This was in addition to representatives of the embassy of the Netherlands and of the European Union.
The next session of the court in this case was set for October 21, 2010.
"Ameer Makhoul is a key human rights defender, well-known for his civil society activism on behalf of the Palestinian citizens of Israel. His arrest and continued detention smacks of pure harassment, designed to hinder his human rights work. If this is the case, we would regard him as a prisoner of conscience call for his immediate and unconditional release." Philip Luther, Deputy Director of Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa Programme.
Jewish Peace News editors:
Sarah Anne Minkin
Lincoln Z. Shlensky
Jewish Peace News archive and blog: http://jewishpeacenews.blogspot.com
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