Israeli Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked has ordered the deportation of imprisoned Palestinian-French lawyer Salah Hammouri from his home in occupied East Jerusalem to France, after revoking his residence in Jerusalem.
Hammouri holds French citizenship and works for Addameer, a Palestinian rights group based in occupied East Jerusalem. Amnesty International described Sunday’s deportation as “Israel’s shameless attempt to silence anyone defending the Palestinian cause”.
Under Israeli law, the interior minister has the power to revoke the residence of Palestinians living in occupied East Jerusalem.
Reporting from occupied East Jerusalem, Al Jazeera’s Rob McBride said the treatment of Hammouri was seen by many as a test case here. “Human rights lawyers and rights defenders say this is a deliberate attempt by the Israeli authorities to deport Palestinians,” he said.
Dani Shenhar of HaMoked, the Israeli human rights organization that is fighting Hammouri’s case, described Hammouri’s session being revoked as “a drastic measure that violates a person’s fundamental right to live in one’s homeland”.
“As a member of the indigenous people of Jerusalem, Hammouri owes no allegiance to the state of Israel,” Shenhar said. “The fact that this decision was made largely on the basis of confidential evidence further increases the injustice,” he said.
Under administrative supervision
Hammouri has been in detention for nine months under Israel’s controversial administrative detention policy, which allows suspects to be held without charge or trial for six months at a time. It is renewable indefinitely. The law has been used to keep more than 700 Palestinians behind bars across Israel.
The 37-year-old has also been imprisoned by Israel several times in the past.
Israel considers him a terrorist. The most serious was a seven-year sentence for an alleged assassination attempt. “He was released as part of a prisoner exchange between Hamas and the Israeli government,” Al Jazeera’s McBride said.
“Hammouri is a French citizen, but he did not live in France for long. He spent 37 years here in Jerusalem. He can be deported at any time if his residence is cancelled,” he said.
“Hammouri’s wife has already been deported. She now lives in France with her children.”
‘Son of Jerusalem’
French President Emmanuel Macron has previously expressed concern over the case with Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid.
The French government has repeatedly urged the Israeli authorities to release Hammouri and allow him to live with his family in Jerusalem.
“France is following Salah Hammouri’s situation very closely and at the highest level,” said the French foreign ministry’s statement.
Hammouri’s wife, Elsa Lefort, told Al Jazeera that her husband was targeted by Israel because he was a human rights defender.
“This is terrible news and I can’t imagine how upset Salah could have been,” Salah said from Paris. “He is the son of Jerusalem. His life was born there, there. The city is part of itself. Terrible news for Salah.
Salah has been arrested by the Israelis for over 20 years and spent more than nine years in prison.”
Lefort said Hammouri was subject to travel bans and was denied entry to Palestine and deported to France.
Deportation ‘war crime’
Last year, Hammouri was among six human rights activists whose mobile phones were found by independent security researchers to be infected with spyware made by Israeli company NSO Group.
It is not known who planted the spyware on the phones. Israel said there was no link between Adameer’s designation of “terror” and any alleged use of NSO spyware with five other Palestinian rights groups. Israel has publicly provided little evidence to support its definition of “terrorism,” which Palestinian groups say is to silence them and drain their funding.
Israel claimed that Hammuri was an activist in a “banned militant group” because of his membership in the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).
Amnesty International said his deportation would constitute a war crime.
“These latest plans are not only a shameless attempt to hinder Salah’s human rights work, but are also an expression of the long-term gruesome policy of the Israeli authorities to reduce the number of Palestinians in East Jerusalem,” said Heba Morayef of Amnesty International. Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa.
“Illegal expulsion from the Occupied Palestinian Territories constitutes a grave violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention and a war crime. Deportation to perpetuate the apartheid system constitutes a crime against humanity. All of these crimes are within the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court, whose prosecutor is investigating the situation in Palestine.”
Palestinian residents of Jerusalem can apply for Israeli citizenship, but few do, who don’t want to be seen as accepting the occupation. Applicants, on the other hand, face a long and bureaucratic process.