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Lawyer for Italian-Palestinian held by Israel appeals to Italy to intervene

— Rome (AFP)

The lawyer for an Italian-Palestinian student detained by Israel since August called Wednesday on Italy to intervene, saying he was being held in violation of his legal rights.

Khaled El Qaisi, 27, has been detained by Israel without charges since August 31, when he was arrested while crossing from the West Bank to Jordan after a family vacation in his home city of Bethlehem.

A student of languages at Rome's Sapienza University, born in Palestine and also an Italian citizen, El Qaisi has since been subject to daily interrogations in a prison near Tel Aviv, his Italian lawyer Flavio Rossi Albertini said.

"A whole series of guarantees in the Italian system that we all know and which we appeal to when we are involved with the justice system, all of this is denied in Israel," Albertini told a press conference held in Italy's lower house of parliament, attended by two opposition party deputies.

"How can the Italian government not take a position?" he said.

A hearing in Israel is scheduled for October 1, at which point he could be charged or freed within a few days, Albertini added.

But El Qaisi also risks being placed under administrative detention, which would allow Israel to hold him for renewable periods of six months without bringing formal charges.

Israel says the controversial security measure is intended to allow authorities to hold suspects while continuing to gather evidence, with the aim of preventing attacks or security offences in the meantime.

But administrative detention is primarily used against Palestinians, with Israeli authorities coming under criticism from human rights groups for abusing the measure.

According to Israeli rights group HaMoked, Israel currently has 1,264 administrative detainees.

A spokesman for Amnesty International Italy, Riccardo Noury, said Israel did not care that El Qaisi was also a citizen of Italy.

"Khaled is Palestinian. So a suspect, automatically. So a threat, automatically," Noury said.

Albertini said that even if his client is charged with a crime, it would be based on statements made under harsh questioning without the presence of a lawyer, and made "due to the need to escape those conditions of detention and interrogation".

Present during the arrest was El Qaisi's wife, Francesca Antinucci, and his four-year-old son, as well as his mother.

Khaled is the co-founder of Sapienza University's Palestinian Documentation Center, described as a group advancing Palestine culture in Italy.

Participants at the press conference expressed concern that El Qaisi's situation could turn into a repeat of the Patrick Zaki case, which triggered international condemnation.

Zaki was an Egyptian university student in Italy who was arrested in 2020 during a trip to Egypt and spent 22 months in pre-trial detention.

Under pressure from Italy, Zaki was granted a pardon in July -- a day after being sentenced to three years in jail.