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French Palestinian jailed in Israel on hunger strike

Arrested last March by Israeli authorities, French Palestinian Salah Hamouri protests his prolonged administrative detention.
French-Palestinian Salah Hamouri.

The French Foreign Ministry on Oct. 5 reiterated its former statements, saying it is closely following the situation of French Palestinian Salah Hamouri who has been detained in Israel since March and on a hunger strike for two weeks now. The ministry called upon Israel to release Hamouri and enable his wife, Elsa Lefort, banned from entering Israel and the West Bank since 2016, to be united with her husband.

The ministry had stated on Sept. 5 that "the situation of Mr. Salah Hamouri is and will continue to be followed closely. The President of the Republic addressed the situation of Mr. Hamouri during his call with Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid on Aug. 22. We have approached Israeli authorities several times in recent months, in Paris addressing the Israeli ambassador and in Israel addressing the Israeli Foreign Ministry, the prime minister's office and the Israeli presidency, requesting that all of Mr. Hamouri's rights be respected and that he be able to benefit from all means of appeal."

In its Oct. 5 communique, the French ministry entered into more details, stating that both French consuls — the one in Tel Aviv and the one in Jerusalem — had visited Hamouri in jail. It said five such visits have already taken place. It also said that family members of Hamouri have been received many times at the Foreign Ministry in Paris to discuss the situation, with the last such meeting taking place on Oct. 3.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry declined to comment or confirm that French President Emmanuel Macron raised in person the issue with Israel's Prime Minister Yair Lapid last August, saying only the issue has come up on a number of occasions in discussions between Israeli and French authorities.

Hamouri, 37, who resides in East Jerusalem, was detained by Israeli security forces on March 10. On June 7, an Israeli court agreed to prolong his detention by three months. Israeli authorities claim that Hamouri is linked with a terror group. He is under administrative detention, which means that no date has been fixed for a trial. According to Israeli law, administrative detention can be used in cases when suspects are considered dangerous, affiliated with terror groups and/or planning terror attacks. Hundreds of Palestinians are presumably held in administrative detention, but few, if any, apart from Hamouri also carry European citizenship.

The decision to prolong Hamouri's detention was communicated directly to his lawyer, but the charges are reportedly unknown to them. After seven months of detention, Hamouri's lawyer has no idea if and when his client will stand trial. 

Hamouri's case came into the spotlight mostly at the beginning of April when a complaint was filed on his behalf claiming his mobile phone had been hacked via the Israeli-developed Pegasus NSO software. A report published last November claimed that the phones of several Palestinian activists, including Hamouri, were tapped using Pegasus. Apparently lacking evidence, the report did not point the finger directly at Israel.

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