The ax fell a few hours before the expected time of his release, Monday, June 6. The Israeli authorities have extended the administrative detention of Franco-Palestinian lawyer Salah Hamouri until 5 September. “While the Israeli military command signed the deed of renewal dated June 2, Salah and his lawyer were not notified until just before his expected release,” said the NGO for the defense of prisoners Addameer for which he works.
The 37-year-old lawyer was arrested on March 7 during a raid on his home in East Jerusalem. He has since been held under the decried regime of administrative detention, which allows Israel to incarcerate suspects without formal charge or trial, or time limit, and on the basis of information kept secret.
Military justice accuses him of being a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a Marxist organization with an armed wing and considered “terrorist” – which he denies – by the Jewish state and the European Union. Israel more broadly accuses several Palestinian NGOs, including Addameer, of maintaining links with the PFLP – which they equally deny.
More than 600 Palestinian administrative detainees
The organization estimates at more than 600 the current number of Palestinian administrative detainees, deprived of access to their files and who are boycotting the Israeli courts to denounce this practice associated with “psychological torture”. “Salah is the victim of an arbitrariness that directs everything, since there is no reason for incarceration. Prisoners like him, their families and loved ones are kept in an insecurity that generates stress, testifies his French wife Elsa Lefort. Why and how long will this last? »
Specialized in the defense of political prisoners, the lawyer has been struggling with Israeli justice for nearly twenty years, in what Amnesty International denounces as a “long-standing harassment”. He was first imprisoned in 2005, accused by the courts of having participated in the assassination attempt of Ovadia Yossef, former chief rabbi of Israel and founder of the ultra-Orthodox Shass party, before being released in 2011, as part of a prisoner exchange that led to the release of Franco-Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, then held hostage in Gaza.
Upon his release from prison, he began studying law and became a lawyer at the Palestinian bar in August 2017. Placed in administrative detention at the same time, he was released in 2018. Arrested again on June 30, 2020 by Israeli forces , he was released on conditions a week later.
“Go live in France. If you stay here, you will suffer”
Now detained in Ofer prison, near Ramallah in the West Bank, Salah Hamouri is only allowed to receive one visit a month, and cannot have telephone contact with his family. “According to what has been reported to me, there is a slight overcrowding in prison and the conditions are quite summary, always in a logic of humiliation, explains Elsa Lefort, herself banned from Israeli territory for ten years until the end of 2025. The Israeli authorities have a well-defined plan. During each interrogation, Salah was told: “Go and live in France. If you stay here, you will suffer.” »
Born of a French mother and a Palestinian father from East Jerusalem, Salah Hamouri is at the same time at risk of expulsion from the Holy City, where he was born and has always lived. In early October, Israeli Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked signed the revocation of her permanent resident status for “breach of trust vis-à-vis the State of Israel”. A final appeal has been filed with the Israeli Supreme Court.
The “diplomatic wall of silence”
All eyes of supporters and relatives of Salah Hamouri now turn insistently to France. The Quai d’Orsay had demanded at the end of April that it “to be released and that he can lead a normal life in Jerusalem”. “But the efforts made by the French authorities are not up to the challenge. Even as the mobilization widens, France must unreservedly support our demand for liberation,” believes Elsa Lefort.
“Salah is surrounded by this wall of silence of diplomacy. But when it’s Iran, there’s no problem, the words of diplomacy are strongjudges his wife, who saw him for the last time in May 2021, at the birth of their second child. The only lever we have left against such a powerful machine is for the President of the Republic to defend it, bang his fist on the table. »