Update: As of June 25, after three weeks in detention without charge Yasser was indicted by the Israeli military, accused of affiliation with an illegal organization based on confessions from him gained during his period in detention when he was repeatedly interrogated for extended periods without a lawyer. His next hearing will be held on July 13th. AFSC will continue to follow his case closely.
Statement from the American Friends Service Committee:
On June 3, Yasser Elhattab was detained by the Israeli military while leaving Gaza to participate in an American Friends Service Committee (AFSC)-sponsored program in the West Bank. He was detained at the Erez Crossing and remains in Israeli custody.
When he was detained, Yasser was in possession of a travel permit obtained for him by AFSC from the Israeli Military Authorities. He had been cleared to travel by the military as well as security authorities, who approved his permit in May. Yasser has not been accused of or charged with any crime.
At an initial hearing before a civil judge on June 4, Yasser’s detention was extended until today, June 11. He then had a second hearing, when his detention was extended until June 15.
Yasser is a 24-year-old social work student from Gaza and an active participant in AFSC’s Palestinian Youth Together for Change program, which works with Palestinian young adults in Gaza, the West Bank, and Israel. Last week AFSC organized a gathering for all of the participants in the program in Nablus. Because Gaza remains under an Israeli blockade and residents are forbidden from leaving Gaza without approval from the Israeli military, AFSC applied for travel permits on behalf of each of the Gazan program participants.
AFSC received assurances from the Israeli authorities on more than one occasion that Yasser and the other Gaza participants with permits had the security clearance needed to travel. To date, AFSC has not received any official explanation for his subsequent detention.
Yasser’s lawyers and other human rights organizations have made it clear that Yasser’s case is not unique. Palestinians exiting Gaza through Erez on travel permits granted by the Israeli authorities have regularly been detained, questioned, and sometimes imprisoned for extended periods of time, making the Erez Crossing a trap for those seeking to travel into or through Israel to travel abroad, receive medical treatment, attend work meetings, or conduct other business. Detainees report being interrogated and subjected to psychological pressure, extortion, and other ill treatment by Israeli authorities.
Yasser has now been in detention for more than one week without charge. During that time, he has not been allowed to contact his family and has only been allowed two brief meetings with a lawyer.
AFSC is concerned that Yasser’s basic legal rights as guaranteed by international law are being violated. We are also concerned for his safety and well-being and call for his immediate release.