'Welcome to the Jericho slaughter house'

Palestinian-American in PA custody says she was tortured

Detention of Suha Jbara, 31, extended by 15 days on suspicions she funded ‘illegal organizations’ and ‘worked with the enemy’

File: Palestinian security forces in Hebron, November 14, 2017. (Wisam Hashlamoun/Flash90)
File: Palestinian security forces in Hebron, November 14, 2017. (Wisam Hashlamoun/Flash90)

JERICHO, West Bank— A Palestinian court on Thursday extended the detention of a hunger-striking Palestinian-American activist who claims she was tortured in captivity.

Suha Jbara, 31, a US citizen born in Panama, shuffled into the Jericho courtroom with her head down, appearing ashen and weak. Her father and son reached out to embrace her but were restrained by Palestinian authorities.

The court ordered that Jbara remain in custody 15 more days on suspicions she funded “illegal organizations” and “worked with the enemy.” Palestinian authorities refused to elaborate on the accusations. Jbara insists the only organizations she supports are Islamic charities advocating for Palestinian prisoners in Israel.

When the judge announced her extended detention, her youngest son, Mohammed, erupted into sobs and her father shook his fist, wailing, “Shame on you! I swear this is not justice!” as security officials ushered him out of the courtroom.

Jbara started a hunger strike two weeks ago to protest what she says is unjust treatment by Palestinian authorities. She told her lawyer on Thursday that she will continue striking for her remaining days of detention in hopes of bringing attention to her plight.

She told the advocacy organization Amnesty International that after arresting her from her home in a midnight raid, Palestinian authorities tortured her and deprived her of water, sleep and medicine she needs for a heart condition. She said security officials threatened her with sexual violence and forced her to sign a document admitting to charges she says are false.

“He insulted me all the time, used very dirty and violent sexual language, threatened to bring a doctor to look into my virginity and say that I was a whore, and threatened to hurt my family and to take my kids away from me,” she said of her Palestinian interrogator.

Jbara said security officers also punched her in the chest and back and threw her against a wall.

She told the human rights group that she was hospitalized after suffering a seizure upon her arrest, but was dragged from her hospital bed by Palestinian officers.

“I was in bed with tubes in my arms when I clearly remember armed men came into the room… The armed men took off the tubes and dragged me out. I was feeling very weak and could barely move or talk… They put me in a minivan and I slept on the floor. I woke up in another place and they said to me, ‘Welcome to the Jericho slaughter house,’” she said.

Her father, Badran Jbara, said Jbara lived for nearly a decade with her American husband in New Jersey, where she obtained US citizenship and raised her three children. Now divorced, she lives with her family in the West Bank city of Turmas Aya, known for its large population of Palestinian-Americans.

“Every day my daughter Suha is dying,” Jbara said. “These people are committing brutal crimes against humanity and against the Palestinian people.”

Her lawyer, Mohannad Karajah, called the Palestinian authorities’ accusations “baseless” and “politically motivated.”

The New York-based watchdog Human Rights Watch released a report last month accusing both the Western-backed Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza of using “machineries of repression” to stifle criticism.

The investigation reported that that Palestinian security forces routinely use torture and arbitrary arrests to quash dissent by peaceful activists and political opponents.

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