A Palestinian lawyer who spends his days advocating for Palestinian prisoners now finds himself behind bars.
Anas Barghouthi was picked up by Israeli forces on September 15, 2013 at a checkpoint in the West Bank. He’s been charged with “membership in the Palestinian Front for the Liberation of Palestine” and “leadership of a committee to organize demonstrations.” Barghouthi denies both charges.
He has been sharply critical of the Palestinian Authority’s practice of security cooperation with the Israeli occupation, as well as politically motivated detentions and arrests of Palestinian political figures. He continues to volunteer with Addameer to work on the cases of political detainees held by the PA. Barghouti himself was summoned on March 6 of this year to the PA’s Preventive Security headquarters for questioning.
This reminds me of the 50 Turkish lawyers arrested in Istanbul this past June. They were protesting at Çağlayan Justice Palace (the main justice court in Istanbul) to denounce the repression of the “Occupy Gezi” protesters and were rounded up by members of Turkey’s special forces and hauled off to jail.
In countries that respect the Rule of Law, no one questions the critical role of lawyers in the justice system. Their advocacy for the rights of “you and me and all of us” is what makes the system work. Without lawyers, there simply is no justice system. When the government intimidates lawyers and judges, like throwing them into jail, the government is demonstrating its contempt for an independent and fair judiciary and the Rule of Law.
Amnesty International considers Barghouthi a prisoner of conscience and has issued an appeal for people to write Prime Minister Netanyahu and Military Judge Advocate General Efroni to demand Barghouthi’s immediate release. I wrote my letters today. I ended each letter with:
Israel prides itself as a nation upholding democratic values, however the detention of Anas Barghouthi is a flagrant violation of the cherished principles of freedom of political expression and freedom of peaceful assembly. Barghouthi is a prisoner of conscience and the eyes of the world are closely watching Israel’s actions in his case. I urge you to unconditionally release Barghouthi immediately and put an immediate end to harassment of human rights defenders in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.