Sunday, September 17, 2006
MOHAMMED BARGHOUTHI: The Palestinian Authority's minister of labor spent six weeks incarcerated this summer and says he was tied in a painful position for hours at a time.
Three ministers claim Israel used a banned method of interrogation on them known as the shabah.
"RAMALLAH, WEST BANK – A government minister in the Palestinian Authority, who was arrested and held by Israeli authorities for more than six weeks this summer, says that during his interrogation he was tied for hours in a painful position known as the shabah. The technique, which Israeli security officials had argued was an effective way to put pressure on a suspect, was banned by Israel's Supreme Court in 1999.
"For five, six, seven hours, they would take me and tie my hands behind my back like this, and with my feet up, in the shabah," says Minister of Labor Mohammed Barghouthi, recalling his interrogation in an interview in his office." It caused a lot of pain in my neck and back, but the psychological pain is much worse."
In 1999, a nine-judge panel of the Supreme Court unanimously outlawed methods of physical force that were routinely used by Shin Bet. Techniques banned in the decision included holding and tying the prisoner in painful positions, violent shaking, sleep deprivation, covering the head with a sack, and playing loud music.
Barghouthi says he was never beaten, but on the day of his arrest he was shackled, blindfolded, and had his cellphone confiscated. He says that the incarceration included 35 days in a windowless, solitary cell in Jerusalem's Russian Compound. "Night and day, I never knew what time it was," he says. "I never saw my face. I never saw the sun. I had no change of clothes." He says interrogators threatened to arrest his wife or his father if he didn't cooperate. By the time of his release, he says he had lost 26 pounds.
One of the arguments Kawasmi used to secure their release was that Israel had not acted until now as if being a member of Hamas's Change and Reform Party was illegal. Israel, he points out, allowed the Palestinian elections to take place in January and for the Hamas-affiliated candidates to run in East Jerusalem, which has officially been annexed to Israel. "You let them participate," Kawasmi says. "You can't come and arrest them now and accuse them of being members of a parliament chosen by an election in which you allowed them to run.""