Amnesty International and Palestinian cultural institutions have launched an appeal for help for 23-year-old Palestinian circus performer and teacher Mohammed Abu Sakha, held by Israel for nearly three months without trial.
Abu Sakha was arrested on December 14 in the West Bank, and held since January in administrative detention, under which Israel can keep terror suspects without trial for periods of six months, renewable indefinitely.
Israel says administrative detention is an important security tool necessary to stop terror attacks. International law permits detention without trial under extremely limited circumstances, but critics say Israel uses the measure on a large scale, denying detainees due process.
According to the Shin Bet security service, Abu Sakha was arrested for “renewed activity” with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, an extremist Palestinian faction that opposes peace with Israel. The group, which was involved in hijackings and other attacks in the 1970s, has scaled back its terror activities in recent years, though Israel still considers it a terror group.
The Palestinian Performing Arts Network (PPAN), which represents artists and cultural institutions, said it was “deeply concerned” over the detention of Abu Sakha, who since 2008 has been part of the Palestinian Circus School in Bir Zeit, first as a student and later as a clown and teacher.
PPAN called on artists and cultural organizations “to raise awareness of Israel’s illegal policy of administrative detention,” and pressure Israel to release Abu Sakha.
Amnesty called to pressure Israel ahead of a military court hearing of Abu Sakha’s appeal against his detention, scheduled for March 21.
The group said Abu Sakha’s mother was allowed to visit him once in Megiddo Prison in northern Israel, where he was entertaining his fellow inmates to help the time pass.
More than 7,000 Palestinians are currently in Israeli jails, of whom approximately 10 percent are under administrative detention, according to Palestinian rights groups.
Israel has in recent months also placed a number of Jewish Israelis under administrative detention, over suspicions of hate crimes against Palestinians and Christians.