Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Israel Ignores U.S. Protests over Torture, Detention of Young American Citizen in Israeli Prison

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Israel Ignores U.S. Protests over Torture, Detention of Young American Citizen in Israeli Prison

Article excerpt

Israel Ignores U.S. Protests Over Torture, Detention Of Young American Citizen in Israeli Prison

It is not the first time an American citizen has been tortured by Israeli interrogators, but the case of 18-year-old Hashem Mufleh is particularly outrageous. Israeli security police pulled him out of line at Ben-Gurion Airport as he was about to board a departing aircraft, arrested him, and refused to let his mother talk to him. Israel has ignored State Department protests, made after Mufieh's case was taken up by a number of Americans including a journalist, Malcolm Brenner, from The Independent, a newspaper in Mufleh's home town of Gallup, New Mexico.

Hashem Mufleh was returning to the United States after completing high school in Ramallah on the West Bank. He has been held without charge since his Aug. 18 arrest. Relatives say he has suffered the usual methods of interrogation under torture, including "the chair," in which he has been bound in uncomfortable positions for days at a time, sleep deprivation, and continuous extremely loud music.

The interrogators told him the torture would continue until he signed a confession in Hebrew. When he would not do so, the interrogators demanded that Muller agree to leave and never return to the area.

He again refused, saying that he had done nothing wrong and did not want to be banned from visiting his friends and relatives in Palestine. His interrogators then demanded that he agree to stay away from the area for two years. When he again refused he was ordered by a court to remain in custody, without charge, for another 30 days.

EMBASSY SEES HIM AFTER 10 DAYS

After several attempts, a U.S. Embassy official was finally allowed to visit Mufleh 10 days after his arrest and Mufleh also was allowed to talk with a lawyer, Jonathan Kuttab, recruited by the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee. Kuttab told Mufleh's family that the Israelis referred to the fact that Mufleh had studied the Qur'an for two weeks with a teacher who had been arrested several years ago.

Embassy sources had hoped for the release of Mufleh within a few days, but since the court remanded him over for another 30 days it is unclear when he will be released. And, of course, there remains the issue of torture...

U.S. LAW SAYS CUT OFF AID

Under U.S. law, any torture of an American citizen by another country automatically triggers a cutoff of U.S. aid to the offending country. Attempts to bring the law, passed in 1970, to the attention of the administration and the Congress have been ignored.

Some 3,000 American citizens are in prison in foreign countries, many for drug-related crimes. Eighteen U.S. citizens were in Israeli prisons in 1996, the latest year for which figures are available. Five more were in prison in areas under jurisdiction of the U.S. Consulate General in Jerusalem, which includes East and West Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza. By comparison, there were 72 U.S. citizens in detention in Great Britain, a country about 10 times the size of Israel. There were no figures available for the Palestinian Authority area. About 100 Palestinians have died from torture in Israeli custody over the past three decades, but no Americans have been among them.

CONSULAR NOTICE DOES MENTION DANGER

The Department of State Consular Notes on Israel do warn Americans in general that if they are arrested they may be questioned for several days without access to consular officers, something that would never happen to Israelis in American jurisdiction.

It clearly is easier to get the attention of elected officials and the media when the victim of Israeli excesses is American. …

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