Saturday, July 9, 2011

INTERVIEW with ANAN ODEH, lawyer with Al-Damir

Anan just came out of the prison in Ramleh. He met with other detainees, among them Dr. Hikmat Al-Sabti, who is doing fine at the moment. When I asked Anan how he is doing his response is soft but fierce: ‘I’m good!’
Anan tells me: ‘Today we found out they took some of the detainees to other prisons, among which Givon in Ramleh. We went to the prison to get answers and find out how these other detainees are. At first we got no clear answer. Then we formally asked a permission to visit. This was denied, which is unacceptable, because these people have the right to see a lawyer.’

Anan continues:  ‘At noon today, we arrived at the prison. Three hours before the prison would close, we got the permission to speak to the detainees. At three o’clock we were allowed to go ahead and enter the prison where we met the detainees. We found out that around 70 people were detained there from different nationalities and ages. The balance of men and women was fifty-fifty.’

Then Anan speaks about his conversations with the detainees in this prison:  ‘I only spoke to 9 of them from England, the USA, Ireland, Scotland, Belgium and Germany. From them I heard what was happening at the airport on an earlier notice. Once they arrived to the passport control they were asked where they were going and for how long. They replied, stating that they were invited to take part in the Welcome to Palestine initiative in Bethlehem. After saying so, they immediately were taken aside. After a while they were taken to a small room without any explanations. There they were detained for a couple of hours.’

Without telling the detainees how long they had to wait, they were kept for four hours. In the evening they were put into trucks that they normally use to transfer prisoners. These metal trucks with metal chairs are very small. At least 12 people were put in one of these trucks and left there for a long time without food, drinks or air conditioning. After several hours they asked for food and drinks, but they got nothing. ‘This to me is shocking to hear, as there are several men of age that were detained. Among them  an Irish and British man of respectively 73 and 83 years old. To put these men in a small van that is not bigger than 1 square meter with ten other people and without food and drinks for over 4 hours, is just jarring.’
Today Anan heard stories about how the police attacked the group of travelers at the airport as well. This was a quick and violent approach. An Irish woman told him how the group was surrounded by at least 25 soldiers and security guards. As they were provoked, a man was shouted at, before he got beaten by soldiers and then handcuffed for no reason. ‘I actually met this man in the prison today and the bite marks still can be seen on his hand and neck.’

After being put in the van and waiting for several hours outside the airport, the detainees were brought to the prison in Ramleh. When brought to the van they, however, were told that they would be taken to a hotel before being deported back home. Without any additional information or explanation, at three in the morning they had to find out they were actually taken to a prison. ‘Most of them arrived at four in the afternoon at the airport and until they arrived at the prison, they had to do without food and water for this whole period of time. All of their luggage was taken at the airport, including their money. ‘
Until now Anan has no news on people being released from this prison. When talking to the detainees, some of them confirmed Anan they have to go home anyway because of work. Most of the detainees were hopeful though: ‘they refuse to go home and are really motivated to come to Bethlehem anyhow to participate in the peaceful Welcome to Palestine-initiative.’

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