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Rights groups call for Palestinian artist’s release from Israeli jail

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Palestinian circus artists hold portraits of their colleague, Mohammed Abu Sakha, as they demonstrate in Gaza City, Feb. 8, 2016. (Photo by AFP)

A number of human rights organizations have called for public support to press the Israeli regime to release a Palestinian circus artist held under administrative detention.

The UK-based Amnesty International and a number of Palestinian cultural institutions made the plea on Saturday for Mohammed Abu Sakha, who was arrested by Israeli troops in the occupied West Bank last December.

Abu Sakha heads the Palestinian Circus School’s program teaching circus arts to children with mental disabilities.

Since January 11, the artist has been under administrative detention, which is a sort of imprisonment without trial or charge that allows Israel to incarcerate Palestinians for up to six months.

Tel Aviv accuses Abu Sakha of “renewed activity” with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a left-leaning Palestinian faction regarded as a terrorist organization by Israel. The regime justifies the arbitrary detention of the artist and claims that alleged evidence against him is classified.

The Palestinian Performing Arts Network (PPAN), which includes a dozen cultural organizations in the occupied Palestinian territories, said it was “deeply concerned” about the case of Abu Sakha.

In a message posted online, the prisoner’s mother said her son “has transformed the prison into a small circus and does performances to entertain his fellow prisoners,” some of whom are children of 12 or 13 years of age.

More than 7,000 Palestinian prisoners are currently held in some 17 Israeli jails, dozens of whom are serving multiple life sentences.

Over 500 detainees are under administrative detention, which can be renewed for an indefinite time without any legal process.

According to the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem, arbitrary detention should be exercised only in very exceptional cases, but Israeli officials routinely employ the practice against thousands of Palestinians.

Palestinian detainees have continuously resorted to open-ended hunger strikes in an attempt to expresses their outrage at the illegal and unfair administrative detention and to demand an end to the policy.

Last year, the Israeli regime passed a controversial bill allowing the force-feeding of hunger-striking prisoners to counter the Palestinian hunger-strikers’ protest.

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