Jailed Without Charge: Ahmad Manasra, 21-year-old Palestinian in jail for 8 years

By Humaira Ahad

A young Palestinian man languishing behind bars looks around curiously, probably thinking about his lost childhood, the precious years he spent in the dark dungeons of the Israeli regime.

In solitary confinement, 21-year-old Ahmad Manasra bears deep scars of torture and harassment he has suffered in different Israeli jails in the past eight years, which has led to severe mental illness.

Manasra was abducted by the Israeli regime forces in October 2015 in connection with the alleged stabbing and injuring of two Israeli settlers in the occupied East Jerusalem.

After several hearings, the courts found that he had no role to play in the stabbing of settlers.

The regime still convicted him of attempted murder in 2016. Even though he was below the minimum age of criminal responsibility at the time, he continues to remain in prison.

Being held in the isolation section of the Eishel prison in the Negev desert, Manasra has been suffering from a severe psychological illness due to the brutal torture he had to endure during interrogations, which were conducted in the absence of his parents or lawyers.

As per international law, the presence of a guardian is necessary during the investigation of a minor prosecuted for a crime. In Manasra’s case, he was tried for no crime and no one was allowed to witness the court proceedings.

Kept in solitary confinement, the young man has even been denied proper medical care, putting him at high risk of health complications.

Manasra was initially sentenced to 12 years in prison in 2015, which was later reduced to 9 years,

He was accused of being with his cousin Hassan Manasra, who according to the regime officials allegedly stabbed two Israeli settlers near the illegal settlement of Pisgat Ze’ev in occupied East Jerusalem in 2015.

Hassan, who was 15 at the time, was shot dead by an Israeli settler, while Ahmad was severely beaten by a mob of settlers and run over by a car, which led to internal bleeding and fractures to his skull.

A video also surfaced showing Manasra bleeding on the ground, pleading for help, while hordes of settlers were seen shouting and swearing at the teenager, telling him to “die.”

 After Manasra was taken to an Israeli regime jail, another video went viral that showed the young boy being subjected to ruthless interrogation.

In 2015 when Manasra was arrested, an Israeli “law” stated that children under 14 could not be held responsible for a crime. To bypass that “law”, the Zionist authorities put Mansara who was around 13 in 2015 in jail for a year till he turned 14 and later sentenced him for “attempted murder.”

In 2016, the law was abolished and now the regime makes it permissible “to imprison a minor convicted of serious crimes such as murder, attempted murder or manslaughter.”

Not finding any evidence, Israeli courts later acknowledged that Manasra had no hand in the murder of the two illegal Israeli settlers however the young man continues to languish in jail.

Earlier this year, an Israeli judge said that Manasra should remain in solitary confinement, describing him as a danger. The judge based his sentence on “evidence” never made public.

"After being imprisoned as a child, and most recently spending a year and a half in solitary confinement, Ahmed has been detained for yet another six months," Manasra’s father said outside the courtroom in March. 

“His health is deteriorating, and his mind is struggling to cope,” the worried father added.

In October 2021, an independent Israeli clinical psychologist working with Physicians for Human Rights – Israel (PHRI) diagnosed Manasra with severe psychiatric conditions, saying these developed since his incarceration in Israeli jails.

In December 2021, for the first time, an external doctor was allowed to visit Manasra. The doctor, a psychiatrist from Doctors Without Borders (MSF), issued a statement saying that the young man suffers from schizophrenia.

“His mental health is deteriorating inside the prison. He keeps crying, he imagines things and situations that don’t exist, he mixes up his speech,” the Palestinian prisoner’s uncle was quoted as saying.

Israel has held around 10,000 Palestinian children in administrative detention over the past 20 years.

As per Save the Children, Palestinian children are “the only children in the world who are systematically prosecuted in (Israeli regime’s) military courts.”

The NGO noted that 86 percent of Palestinian children are beaten in Israeli regime prisons, while 69 percent are strip-searched and 42 percent are subject to injuries during their arrests.

According to the latest statistics presented on November 20, Israeli forces have arrested more than 800 Palestinian children in this year alone, most of them since the events of October 7.

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