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keyword: Human Rights Defenders

AMEER MAKHOUL

Date of birth: 19 June 1958
Date of arrest: 6 April 2010
Occupation: General Director, Ittijah – The Union of Arab Community-Based Associations
Place of residence: Haifa
Place of detention: Gilboa Prison
Sentence: Nine years imprisonment and one year suspended sentence
 
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Ameer Makhoul is a human rights defender who on 30 January 2011 was sentenced by Haifa District Court to nine years imprisonment and one year suspended sentence. Mr. Makhoul is a prominent political activist and General Director of Itijah, the Union of Arab Community Based Associations. Addameer views Mr. Makhoul’s imprisonment as a deliberate violation of his fundamental freedoms and special protections provided under international law for human rights defenders, particularly freedoms of movement, expression, association and non-violent assembly. Furthermore, as the charges against Mr. Makhoul and his subsequent sentencing are based on what he maintains was a forced confession, Addameer considers the conduct of Mr. Makhoul’s trial to be in violation of fundamental due process principles and human rights standards.
 
ARREST
 
Ameer Makhoul was arrested on 6 May 2010 at 3:10 a.m. when Israeli Security Agency (ISA) agents accompanied by Israeli police raided his family home in Haifa, northern 1948 territory/Israel.
 
After jumping the fence surrounding the home and banging loudly on the door until Mr. Makhoul answered, the 16 ISA agents and police officers immediately separated him from his family, including wife Janan and daughters Hind, 17 and Huda, 12, and began to conduct an extensive search of the home. They allowed Mr. Makhoul to change clothes and place some things in a small bag and took him outside for a period before escorting him back into the home to find keys for the home and the family’s cars.
 
According to Janan, the police confiscated items including documents, maps, the family’s four mobile phones, Ameer and Janan’s laptops, the hard drives from the girls’ two desktop computers, a camera and a small tape recorder containing not-yet-transcribed oral histories Janan collects as part of her work. The police also intentionally scattered Hind’s study materials, even after Hind and her mother informed them that Hind was to sit for the “Bagrut” exam, the official Israeli matriculation exam, the following day.
 
At one point during the police search, Janan says, one officer violently restrained her, twisting her arm and pushing her when she attempted to leave the home’s living room to observe the confiscations. The security forces also refused to identify themselves[1] and showed her a warrant authorizing Mr. Makhoul’s arrest only after she repeatedly insisted. The order had been signed on 23 April 2010 and cited unsubstantiated “security” reasons as the grounds for Mr. Makhoul’s arrest.
 
Meanwhile, approximately 40 minutes after their arrival, a group of the security forces left with Mr. Makhoul in custody. At around the same time, the Israeli authorities raided the office of Ittijah – The Union of Arab Community-Based Associations, where Mr. Makhoul serves as General Director, and confiscated documents and the hard drives from all of the organization’s computers.
 
The police finally left the Makhouls’ home at approximately 5:30 a.m. Before leaving, an officer presented Janan with a list purporting to document everything the security forces had confiscated and requested her signature. However, the officer refused to let Janan check the list or view what they had taken, so she refused to sign.
 
DETENTION
 
At some point after 8 a.m., Janan received a phone call from someone identifying themselves as a representative from the “international terrorism” section of Petah Tikva interrogation center and informed her that Mr. Makhoul was being detained there for interrogation and that she can contact a lawyer to follow up on his case.
 
At approximately 11 a.m. that same morning, a detention extension review in the complainant’s case was held at Petah Tikva interrogation center.[2] The judge at the hearing extended Mr. Makhoul’s detention for six days and banned him from meeting with his attorney for at least the next four days.
 
On 17 May 2010, the Petah Tikvah Magistrate Court extended Mr. Makhoul’s detention until 20 May. This court hearing was the first time that Mr. Makhoul was granted access to his lawyers.
 
TRIAL
 
On 27 May 2010, three weeks after his detention, Mr. Makhoul was charged with espionage, assistance to the enemy in a time of war, contact with a foreign agent, and other security charges. Ameer Makhoul vehemently denies the charges against him, and has stated before the Magistrate’s court in Petah Tikva that he made a confession as a result of the harsh interrogation methods used against him. After the hearing, Mr. Makhoul was transferred to Gilboa prison, where he remains today.
 
At a hearing on 27 October 2010, Mr. Makhoul accepted a plea bargain, pleading guilty to espionage, aggravated espionage, contact with a foreign agent and conspiracy to aid the enemy in time of war. In exchange, the prosecution dropped the charges of assistance to the enemy in a time of war. Plea bargains are often entered into in similar cases because attorneys feel that conducting a full proof trial, including summoning witnesses and submitting evidence, usually leads to a much harsher sentence; a sort of “punishment” imposed by the court on a defendant who did not reach a plea bargain. On the 30 January 2011 Mr. Makhoul was sentenced to nine years imprisonment and one year suspended sentence - almost reaching the maximum sentence normally handed down for plea bargains and rejecting his lawyer’s requests for a shorter sentence of seven years.
 
GAG ORDER
 
Until 27 May 2010, a court-ordered ban had been in place on any publication by any entity in 1948 territory/Israel – whether NGO, media source or individual – of any mention of his arrest or any of the related circumstances or procedures. Addameer received many reports from organizations and media outlets of receiving phone calls from ISA officers after Mr. Makhoul was arrested warning them of the order and instructing those outlets that had already published news of his arrests to remove them immediately.
 
TRAVEL BAN
 
Ameer Makhoul’s arrest came shortly after Israeli Interior Minister Eli Yishai signed an administrative order prohibiting Mr. Makhoul from exiting the country for a two month period.
 
On 22 April 2010, Mr. Makhoul arrived at the Sheikh Hussein Bridge terminal at the Jordan River, intending to exit Israel on his way to Jordan and then several additional countries for meetings with a range of civil society organizations and their representatives. After presenting his passport at the Israeli passport control desk, he was informed that the Israel Interior Minister had issued an order the previous day forbidding him to leave the country until 21 June 2010.
 
In the order, Israeli Minister of the Interior, Eli Yishai, states that “I have reached the conviction that the exit of Ameer Makhoul from the country poses a serious threat to the security of the state, and therefore I issue this order to prevent him from leaving the country until the 21st of June, 2010” according to article 6 of the 1948 emergency regulations.The order further instructs that a copy should be delivered to Mr. Makhoul and that he had 14 days to introduce any written argument in opposition.
 
 
PREVIOUS ARRESTS
 
These recent events are not the first times in which the complainant has been subjected to arrest, detention and harassment by the Israeli authorities in relation to his prominent human rights work. To the contrary, Mr. Makhoul has been subjected to ongoing measures of harassment and intimidation in relation to his human rights activism, particularly during and after the Israeli ground, air and naval offensive in the Gaza Strip, which took place from 27 December 2008 until 18 January 2009.[3]
 
On 8 January 2010, 10 days after Mr. Makhoul gave a speech in Haifa protesting the then-ongoing attack on Gaza, Israeli police demanded that he come for an interrogation. Mr. Makhoul refused, and was forcibly escorted from Ittijah’s Haifa headquarters by two ISA officers to a police station where he was interviewed for three hours. The complainant recalls of this interrogation: “They told me I would be thrown in jail if I continued my political work and that they could arrange for me to be dumped in Gaza. Their main concern seemed to be that I was urging the younger generation to be more politically active”.[4] Indeed, these threats have to some extent been realized and Mr. Makhoul now faces a long period in prison, unable to continue his work as a human rights defender.
 
BACKGROUND
 
“Human rights defenders” are formally defined as persons who work, non-violently, for any or all of the rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Ameer Makhoul clearly falls within the category, in that his activities are peaceful in nature and aimed at the promotion of human rights.
 
Ameer Makhoul is a political activist and serves as the General Director of Ittijah – The Union of Arab Community-Based Associations, an NGO that holds consultative status with the UN. The complainant also serves as Chairman of the Public Committee for the Defense of Political Freedom in the framework of the High Follow-up Committee for the Arab Citizens of Israel. In this position, he engages primarily in monitoring the restrictions on the political freedoms of the Arab citizens of the state, including its leaders, denouncing these restrictions and voicing sharp criticism – openly and to all, in Israel and abroad.
 
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ACT NOW!
 
Here is how you can help Ameer Makhoul:
  • Write to the Israeli government, military and legal authorities and demand that:
    • Mr. Makhoul be released immediately, and that any restrictions imposed on him such as travel bans are lifted
    • Israeli security authorities immediately cease their unlawful arrest and detention policies of Palestinian human rights defenders.
    • Contact details:
      • Mr. Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister, Office of the Prime Minister, 3 KaplanStreet, PO Box 187, Kiryat Ben-Gurion, Jerusalem 91919. Fax: +972.2.651.2631/2.670.5475, E-mail: rohm@pmo.gov.il, pm_eng@pmo.gov.il
      • Mr. Eli Yishai, Minister of the Interior, 2 Kaplan St., Qiryat Ben-Gurion, P.O. Box 6158, Jerusalem 91061. Tel: +972.2.670.1411
      • Mr. Yehuda Weinstein, Attorney General, 29 Salah al-Din St., Jerusalem, 91010. Tel: +972.2.646.6521/2, Fax: +972.2.646.7001
      • Mr. Ehud Barak, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defence, Ministry of Defence, 37 Kaplan Street, Hakirya, Tel Aviv 61909, Israel. Fax: +972.3.691.6940, Email: minister@mod.gov.il
      • Mr. Avigdor Lieberman, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 9 Yitzhak Rabin Boulevard, Kiryat Ben-Gurion, Jerusalem 91035. Fax: +972.2.628.7757/ +972.2.628.8618/ +972.2.530.3367. Email: sar@mfa.gov.il
      • Mr. Yaakov Ne’eman, Minister of Justice, Ministry of Justice, 29 Salah al-Din Street, Jerusalem 91010. Fax: +972.2.628.7757/ +972.2.628.8618/ +972.2.530.3367. Email: sar@justice.gov.il, tifereth@justice.gov.il
      • Ambassador Aharon Leshno-Yaar, Permanent Mission of Israel to the United Nations in Geneva, Avenue de la Paix 1-3, CH-1202, Geneva, Switzerland, Fax: +41.22.716.0555 E-mail: missionisrael@geneva.mfa.gov.il
  • Write to your own elected and diplomatic representatives urging them to pressure Israel to release Mr. Makhoul and to put an end to the ongoing harassment against Palestinian human rights defenders. Contact details for international embassies and consulates in Israel are available at: http://www.embassiesabroad.com/embassies-in/Israel
 

[1] One officer, just as they were leaving, gave Janan his name and ID number.
[2] Israeli law provides that Israeli citizens can be held in custody for a maximum of 24 hours before being brought before a judge. An Israeli citizen accused of a security offense (almost always Palestinians with Israeli citizenship) can be held for four days before going before a judge
[3] As the UN Fact Finding Mission noted in its September 2009 report, this period was marked by widespread intimidation and humiliation by Israeli authorities of Palestinian community leaders. The Mission also recorded that at least 20 Arab leaders were forced to attend illegal interrogations by the ISA where they were asked about their political activities.

 

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