Date of Birth: 30 April 1976
Occupation: Programs Manager
Place of Detention: Ketziot (Negev)
Date of arrest: 25 August 2008
Date of release: UNKNOWN
Postal address: Ketziot Prison
P.O. Box 13, Postal Code: 84102 08
File # 26390/08
I don’t really understand the idea of a secret file. What is in this file that I don’t know about? It is even stated in the judge’s decision that they didn’t notice any involvement in activities recently; nor the existence of anything incriminating against him. But at the same time they say, “We think it’s appropriate that he remains here”. They are telling you that they have nothing, but at the same time he has to be in prison – I’m not able to comprehend that. This is what our children continue to ask about. “What has dad done?” they ask. So we read them the judge’s decision and even they say that there is nothing in there. “Ok, how is it”, they say, “that there’s nothing against him but yet they say he has to remain with them?” “That is the life of any Palestinian person, they could place you into detention and it would be administrative”, I reply. – Renad Rimawi, Eteraf’s wife
Expected end of administrative detention order: 7 October 2009
Number of order renewals: Four
On 15 June 2009, Addameer attorney Mahmoud Hassan filed a petition to the Israeli High Court of Justice against Mr. Rimawi’s second administrative detention order. On 27 June, during the scheduled hearing at the High Court of Justice in Jerusalem, Adv. Mahmoud Hassan withdrew the petition at the Court’s recommendation after its review of the 'secret information’. According to the judges, the Israeli security services representative had already informed the court of his decision to renew Eteraf’s administrative detention order. Subsequently, a fifth administrative detention order valid for an additional three months, starting 8 July 2009, was issued against Eteraf. At the judicial review for the order, the military judge agreed with Eteraf’s lawyer, Adv. Mahmoud Hassan, that his administrative detention would not be renewed again provided that no “new material” is compiled. The order is now set to expire on 7 October 2009. However, from Addameer’s experience, such a decision does not necessarily mean the release of an administrative detainee, as he can be held further on the premise that new “material” has been brought to the attention of the judge.
It was the 25th of August, a Monday, roughly around 5:10 a.m. We heard the sound of knocking on the door. I asked, “Who is it?” I was surprised. Someone responded in good Arabic and said, “We’re the defense army, don’t worry”. So I said, “Who?” He said, “Army, army do not be scared”. So I said, “I just need to put the key in the door to open it.” They began knocking on the door in a very aggressive manner. I opened the door and he asked me, “Who’s with you at home?” I said, “There is no one here but my husband, son and daughter”. He asked, “What they are doing?” I said, “Well, it’s five in the morning, they’re sleeping”. He asked if they were all sleeping, and I nodded. Then he said, “Call your husband”. I asked, “Why, what’s happened?” He said, “Nothing, just call him for us”.
– Renad Rimawi, Eteraf’s wife
At 5.00 a.m. on 25 August 2008, the Israeli Occupying Forces (IOF) surrounded and stormed Eteraf Rimawi’s home. The soldiers searched the house and informed Eteraf that he was under arrest. They then blindfolded and shackled Eteraf in front of his wife and young daughter and took him to Ofer prison, south of Ramallah. Later, he was transferred to Ketziot detention center in the Negev. A few days later, an administrative detention order was issued against Eteraf. The judicial hearing reviewing the order took place on 2 September 2008. There, the military judge stated that Eteraf’s detention was related to his involvement in political activities related to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). He claimed that Eteraf’s alleged political activity had begun in 2007.
We expected that he would be held for no more than a few days. In fact, I was convinced that he would be certainly released after eight days, the legal time that is. He had finished his Masters only a month before and was busy all the time with work and studying. He’d return home after 4 p.m. and study for his exams. Also, because it was a holiday, we were at home all the time. He wasn’t involved in any other activities. Even when they came to detain him, he said, “This time, I am talking with confidence that you have nothing to imprison me for because I’ve spent most of my time at home”. So, we were shocked that an administrative detention order was issued after the 8 days.
– Renad, Eteraf’s wife
In Eteraf’s defense, Addameer attorney Sahar Francis asked the military prosecutor about the type of political activity Eteraf was supposedly involved in. The military prosecutor refused to answer the question. Adv. Francis then asked if anyone else was involved in the activity, or if any attempt had been made to interrogate or arrest anyone else. Again, the military prosecutor refused to answer. The only answer he provided was: “question is not relevant to this case”. Adv. Francis subsequently argued that it had been five years since Eteraf’s last administrative detention in 2003, when he was not charged with a crime. When she then asked why Eteraf was suddenly considered a threat, the military prosecutor responded that he did not have a specific reason but could only say that Eteraf again poses a danger to the security of the State of Israel. Adv. Francis then noted that, on the contrary, Eteraf is known in his community to be a political activist, not involved in any military activities. Therefore, he was arguably being detained merely as a punishment for being a member of a political party.
Ignoring Adv. Francis’ arguments, the military judge confirmed the administrative detention order against Eteraf until 24 November 2008. In his holding, the judge did not provide any additional information other than that submitted by the military prosecutor, but affirmed that it was clear from the 'secret file’ that the Eteraf was active in political activities related to the PFLP. He concluded by stating that there would be no other way to protect the public interest than to keep Eteraf in administrative detention. On 19 November 2008, Eteraf was issued with a second administrative detention order until 23 February 2009. On 18 February 2009 Eteraf’s administrative order was renewed once again, this time for a three month period. The order was confirmed at the judicial review but reduced to two months at the Military Court of Appeals. It was renewed and confirmed for a fourth time from 9 April until 8 July 2009.
This is not the first time that Eteraf has been arrested. Indeed, Eteraf has been in prison four times before his current detention. In 1995, he spent more than two months in interrogation; then in 1996, he was imprisoned for more than a year. Four years later, in 2000, he was placed under administrative detention for a six month period. In 2003, Eteraf spent four months in administrative detention. However, Eteraf has never been charged with a single crime.
THE RIMAWI FAMILY
Community leaders are more dangerous to the Occupation because they are trying to promote an alternative way of life. That’s why they are more targeted. – Dr. Eileen Kuttab, Director of Bisan Centre for Research and Development Prior to Eteraf’s latest arrest, the Rimawi family led a very typical Ramallah life, a life entrenched in Palestinian civil society and commitment to human rights. Originally from Beit Rima, Eteraf worked as Programs Manager at the Bisan Center for Research and Development, one of the hundreds of local non-governmental organizations in Ramallah committed to sustainable community development. Only two months before his arrest, he had completed a Masters Degree in Business Administration at Birzeit University, where he started his professional career as Financial Assistant after obtaining a BA Degree in Economics. In his free time, Eteraf read science books and studied European philosophy – over the years’ he’d managed to build a large home library.
Eteraf’s wife, Renad, is a sociologist and also works as Programs Manager at the Union of Palestinian Women Committees, an NGO committed to the advancement of women’s rights in the Palestinian society. Just before Eteraf’s arrest, Renad was about to resume her MA Studies in Sociology and Development, which she had briefly interrupted. Both Renad and her husband agreed that he would look after their two children while she was at university. Following Eteraf’s imprisonment, however, Renad has been forced to delay the completion of her MA Program once again. “His sudden absence made things really difficult for everyone”, says Renad. “Firstly, Eteraf and I were extremely cooperative at home; I’ve never done anything in the house on my own. When, I cook, he does the washing. I will iron; he will wash and hang the clothes. It was like this, there was a lot of cooperation. Now, it’s just me”.
An independent and active woman, Renad is now not only in charge of the household on top of her full-time job, but also has to cope with her children’s psychological problems following their father’s arrest. Both of Eteraf and Renad’s young children, their four-year-old daughter Wajd, and six-year-old son, Majd have suffered following their father’s recent arrest. Majd slept through his father’s latest arrest and woke up just after the army left the house. As he never saw the Israeli soldiers enter the house, more than a year later he still does not understand the reason for his father’s sudden disappearance from home.
According to Renad,“If [Majd] hears that someone has been released from prison, he always asks, 'Why him? Why has Dad not been released? What’s with him? I want to understand.’ He can’t understand that we have nothing tangible to tell him. He even tells me, “Fine, I will go to the lawyer and tell him I swear Dad hasn’t done anything. We used to go swimming everyday and then we stayed at home, that’s it’. I tell to him, 'Darling, they know this, but that’s how things are’”.
Eteraf was arrested on the second day after Majd had started school. As his father had helped him prepare his schoolbag and pack new books the night before, in Majd’s mind, both actions were interrelated – he now associates school with his father’s arrest and is anxious every morning when it is time to go to class. His teachers say that Majd seems distracted and unable to focus on studying, but the school environment is not helping him to emotionally deal with his father’s arrest. Majd goes to the American School of Palestine, a bilingual English-Arabic school mostly attended by upper middle-class Palestinian youths. He stands out as the only one in his class whose father is currently in prison and, as a result, Majd is often teased by all the other children. Since his father’s arrest, Majd has been setting up the dining table for four, never forgetting to add an additional plate for his father.
“Mom, we’ve decided not to talk to you again”
Wajd, Eteraf’s daughter, witnessed her father’s arrest and has been constantly shaking and crying ever since. She now suffers from a mild post-traumatic stress disorder and has difficulty sleeping at night. Whenever she hears an unusual sound in the evening, she immediately runs to her mother screaming, “soldiers are coming, the soldiers are coming!” Even though she’s a child, Wajd is now terrified that Israeli soldiers may still imprison her. “So I tell her no dear, they don’t imprison children that are your age”, says Renad. “She asks, 'Who told you? Even the elderly with white hair get imprisoned, why wouldn’t they imprison the children?’”
Until now both children keep blaming Renad for their father’s arrest, as she was the one who opened the door when the soldiers came to the Rimawi house. “, I saw mom, she opened the door and let the soldiers inside”, Wajd says continuously. “never confronted me with anything”, Renad says, but adds that, “A day after the arrest, I saw Wajd and her brother go into their room and then both of them came out and said 'Mom, we’ve decided not to talk to you’. I said to them 'What’s happened?’ And they answered, 'You are the one who imprisoned Dad’. So I asked, 'How did I imprison Dad?’ They said, 'Because you opened the door. If you hadn’t opened the door, they would’ve thought that there is no one at home and so they would’ve left. But you by your actions, you gave them dad’”.
Renad has been able to visit her husband in prison only once after his arrest. In general, the Israeli authorities refuse to issue her a permit for so-called “security reasons”. Renad was also prevented from seeing her husband during his previous arrest in 2003. Eteraf’s mother is the only adult family member who has permission to visit regularly. She usually takes Majd and Wajd with her. As per Israeli Prison Service regulations, children below the age of six are allowed to enter the prisoner’s side of the visiting room for the last 10 minutes of the visit. Otherwise, they can only communicate with them through a phone and holes in the glass divider separating them. Only four year-old Wajd is allowed to enter the prisoner’s side and have physical contact with her father. Majd, who just turned six last year, is not allowed the same contact. He now refuses to eat fearing that he will grow too fast. He has convinced himself that if he remains small, the prison guard will give in one day and allow him to hug his father, just as the guard allows his sister.
Before his arrest and detention, Eteraf, as a former detainee, was consistently denied a permit to enter Israel and visit his brother Ahmad, who was arrested in 2003 and sentenced to 17 years’ imprisonment. Once he was detained himself, Eteraf requested a family visit between prisoners, to which he is entitled under Israeli law, with his brother. Ironically, as a prisoner he was allowed to see his brother for a two hour period – a right denied to him as a “free man”.
The transfer from Ketziot, where Eteraf is held, to Ramon prison on the Egyptian border, located an hour south of Beersheba and where Ahmad is held, took four days, hours spent on the bus, and nights in the Beersheba prison. But, as Eteraf points out, at least he got to see his brother for the first time in 5 years.
Here is how you can help Mr. Eteraf Rimawi:
- Send Eteraf letters of support to his postal address in prison
- Write to the Israeli government, military and legal authorities and demand that Eteraf be released immediately and that his administrative detention not be renewed.
- Write to your own elected representatives urging them to pressure Israel to release Eteraf and to put an end to such an unjust, arbitrary and cruel system of incarceration without trial.