By Asa Winstanley
Israel’s secret police have tortured a British citizen into “confessing” to a crime which he insists he did not commit. Although Haaretz claimed last month that he had been released, it appears that Faiz Sherari remains in the custody of a “military court” run by Israel’s illegal occupation regime that rules the fate of all Palestinians in the West Bank.
Israel’s system of military “justice” in the occupied Palestinian territories is, in fact, a farcical pretence, one which is applied on strictly apartheid lines. If they are ever accused of criminal acts by the Israeli state, the Jewish colonists who illegally occupy Palestinian land and properties in the West Bank get charged under Israel’s civilian legal system.
For Palestinians in the West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem, though, there is a separate set of military laws, and a court system run directly by the same Israeli army thugs who hold the whip hand of the illegal occupation. The whole thing is nothing less than a kangaroo court. Underlining the racist nature of the regime, Palestinian citizens of Israel (supposedly equal with Israeli Jews according to pro-Israel propagandists) are often tried under military law too.
According to the Guardian, Sherari is a British citizen; although born in Lebanon, he has lived in the UK for almost a quarter of a century. The Shin Bet — Israel’s secret police with a long and brutal record of torture, kidnapping and assassinations – accuses Sherari of “providing cash and mobile phones to Hamas” during a four-day trip to Palestine in September. However, even the Israeli “judge” (actually a high-ranking officer in the occupation army) admitted that Sherari had been tortured into confessing this “crime”.
Lieutenant-Colonel Azriel Levy said that the confession, “which was given an hour after the end of his Shin Bet interrogation… [was] dramatically influenced by the method of interrogation,” a euphemism for being tortured into giving a false confession. This so-called interrogation was, in fact, torture. According to Levy, it “included pained and prolonged shackling”, threats and psychological pressure.
Sherari’s lawyer, Ramzi Katilat, told the Guardian that, “in the interrogation he made an admission. But what we are saying is that it is untrue. What he said was to satisfy the interrogator who used illegal pressure. He is saying he is not guilty.”
The court ordered Sherari’s release at the end of October, but then apparently changed its mind. Sherari remains in an Israeli jail.
Despite Haaretz claiming at the start of November that the military court had “released [Sherari] from custody last week,” a British government official stated more recently that “our embassy in Tel Aviv has raised, and continues to raise, the detention of Mr Sherari with the Israeli authorities, most recently on 15 November.” This statement was made on 28 November in answer to an MP’s written question. Minister for the Middle East at the Foreign Office in London, Tobias Ellwood, replied that “consular officials continue to provide consular support to Mr Sherari and his family.”
Asked on Friday for an update on the state of the case, the Foreign Office did not reply to my request.
Ellwood’s use of “consular officials” implies that it is the British Consulate in Jerusalem (rather than the embassy in Tel Aviv) which is in contact with Sherari and his family. This in turn implies that he may have Palestinian family in the West Bank. Even though he was born in Lebanon, it is possible that he is a Palestinian refugee, although I am speculating about this.
This apparent lack of concern by the British government about the basic human rights of a British citizen is yet another reminder of the impunity that the Israeli government enjoys in Westminster and other Western capitals.
Had Sherari been imprisoned and tortured by an official “enemy” state such as Iran, Syria or Russia, his name and photograph would have been on all the front pages of the newspapers as well as TV news. As it stands, the single Guardian report is the only article in the British media that I can find to-date. It’s a sad state of affairs.
Israel should either produce evidence of Sherari’s alleged crime or release him immediately. The British government, meanwhile, should start to shoulder its responsibilities and begin demanding this without further delay.
(Source / 10.12.2016)