Ahmed Qatamesh

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Ahmed Qatamesh is a Palestinian political prisoner who holds the record for the time spent in prison under the so-called administrative detention (detention without trial, charge, appeal and sometimes without legal representation) His previous long stint ended in April 1998 after a long international campaign for his release.

Hanin_Ahmad Qatamesh is his daughter

Press Release: 24 April 2011

Israeli Occupation Forces Arrest Palestinian Writer Ahmad Qatamesh

In the early hours of dawn on Thursday, 21 April 2011, a large force of Israeli soldiers and intelligence officers raided the home of the prominent Palestinian writer and academic Dr. Ahmad Qatamesh[1] in Al-Bireh and arrested him. An hour earlier, Qatamesh's wife, 22-year-old daughter and two other female relatives, including a 14-year-old child, were taken hostage by Israeli troops in another apartment to compel him to surrender himself. He was led to "Ofer" detention center in Beitunia.

Ahmad Qatamesh was born in 1950 in a cave in Bethlehem to a refugee family expelled during the Nakba from the village of Al-Malihah, near Jerusalem. Qatamesh earned his diploma in Arabic literature from the UNRWA-run Teacher Training Center in Ramallah.

In 1992, he was arrested by a massive Israeli force in the presence of his then 3-year-old daughter. Accusing him of being a particularly "dangerous" national leader, the Israeli Shabak tortured and illtreated him [2] for a hundred days, an experience that he articulately exposed in his well-read prison notes titled I Shall not Wear Your Tarboush (fez). After the Shabak failed to produce incriminating evidence, however, an Israeli military court issued an "administrative detention" order against him, in accordance with an emergency law that allows Israel to detain for renewable terms anyone under its jurisdiction without charges, trial or access to the charges against him/her. This unjust procedure was repeatedly condemned as a violation of internationally accepted standards of justice by leading human rights organizations, including Amnesty International.[3] Qatamesh's detention was renewed continuously for almost six years, making him the longest serving administrative detainee ever. In April 1998, after a persistent public pressure campaign by Palestinian, Israeli and international human rights activists and organizations, Qatamesh was finally released.[4]

Ahmad Qatamesh earned his master's degree and later his PhD in political science from a Dutch university through distance learning, as he was under a travel ban by the Israeli occupation authorities. He then became a thesis supervisor for several Palestinian graduate students of the same university. He authored several books on diverse literary, political and philosophical topics, and he was a sought-after speaker in local universities and research centers. In 2010, he taught a course in the School of Humanities at Al-Quds University.

Qatamesh's wife, Suha Barghouti, who is a board member of Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Organization and of the Palestinian Red Crescent Society, as well as a Steering Committee member of the Palestinian NGO Network (PNGO), considered his arrest "an attempt to silence his critical voice and prevent his compelling vision for emancipation and self determination from spreading further in the Palestinian public." She called on human rights organizations to pressure the Israeli authorities for his immediate release and held those authorities fully responsible for his safety and wellbeing. His daughter, Haneen, who is on a short break from her studies at the American University of Cairo, commented on her traumatizing experience of being held hostage by Israeli soldiers saying: "They tried to intimidate me by exploiting my deep agony over the idea of being denied my father again, but I firmly confronted them and reminded them of the fate of all colonial powers on our land. In response, their commander shouted that I was as 'obstinate' as my father."

Gerarda Ventura, Vice President of the Euromed Platform of NGOs, expressed deep solidarity of European civil society with Palestinians like Ahmad Qatamesh, whom she called "one of the most sensitive and intellectual people I have ever met," in their civil struggle for "freedom, justice and peace."

The Addameer-appointed lawyer who visited Qatamesh the day after his arrest stated that he was not interrogated and that he was informed instead that he would get an administrative detention order. This indicates that the Shabak, again, lack any evidence to build a case against him and proves that he was arrested indeed for his writings and peaceful activism and not any "security" reasons as was claimed by the Israeli authorities.

Praising Ahmad Qatamesh as "an excellent writer, principled researcher and devoted human rights advocate … struggling for freedom and respect of fundamental rights," Palestinian Legislative Council member Dr. Mustafa Barghouti condemned his arrest by Israel as "a shameless attempt at muzzling him in an unjustifiable attack on his freedom of expression."

Ahmad Qatamesh's family has appealed to international agencies and human rights organizations to work for releasing him and all the other Palestinian prisoners of conscience. They also called for ending the draconian policy of administrative detention, which is based on emergency regulations from the era of the British Mandate, as a blatant violation of freedoms and human rights, in particular the right to a fair and just due process.

  1. Also spelled "Katamesh" and "Qatamish."
  2. Five years after the Oslo Agreement, AI Index: MDE 02/04/98, September 1998.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Rebecca Trounson, Israel Frees Arab Held for 6 Years Without Charge, LA Times, 16 April 1998

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