In a duel within Israel’s military court system, prosecutors on Monday charged a prominent Palestinian academic with incitement to commit violence, a day after a judge ordered him freed from detention.
Astrophysics professor Imad Barghouti, 52, was arrested in April and imprisoned without trial for an initial three months, under a controversial Israeli procedure known as administrative detention, which allows for a suspect to be held in custody without being charged.
Israeli authorities suspect Barghouti has ties to the Hamas terror group.
His lawyer, Jawad Bolous, the senior attorney for the Palestinian Prisoners Club, slammed the indictment as “arbitrary,” claiming it served as an “indication the Israeli authorities are using false claims to oppress Palestinians.”
He pointed to the Sunday court decision that determined Barghouti did not pose a threat to the public and ordered he be freed. The ruling came in response to an appeal filed by the Ramallah-based organization last week.
But despite the ruling, military prosecutors are determined to go ahead with the legal proceedings against him and are asking for him to be kept in custody in the Ofer prison.
Citing defense officials, the Haaretz daily reported that in the weeks since his arrest, military prosecutors had accumulated incriminating evidence against Barghouti’s calls for violence against Israel.
“The military prosecution appealed the ruling and filed an indictment, while requesting he be detained until the end of the proceedings,” an army statement said on Sunday. “The military court has currently extended the detention until tomorrow (Monday). Tomorrow morning a hearing will be held.”
YouTube videos of Barghouthi speaking at Hamas rallies show he was not just a critic of Israeli policy in the West Bank, but was also a vocal supporter of Hamas’s military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades.
In a video published August 11, 2014, in the midst of Israel’s 50-day war with Hamas in the Gaza Strip, Barghouthi can be seen speaking at a Hamas rally in downtown Ramallah calling on West Bank Palestinians to “take up arms to defend their homes.”
During a speech two months later at his university, Barghouthi praised the actions of the Qassam Brigades and called on listeners to devote themselves to the “resistance” and to “liberating Al-Aqsa and the holy places” — a reference to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
Barghouthi earned his doctorate at Utah State University, and worked in Jordan and Saudi Arabia before moving to al-Quds University in 2000. He was previously detained on unknown charges by the Israeli Border Police while trying to cross into Jordan in December 2014 and set free the following month.
His 2014 detention was protested by international academic groups, including the French Association of Academics for the Respect of International Law in Palestine, the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine, and the US-based Committee of Concerned Scientists, as a breach of freedom of speech and right to travel.
Administrative detention allows Israel to hold prisoners without trial for renewable periods of up to six months each.
About 7,000 Palestinians are in Israeli prisons, more than one in 10 in administrative detention.