Israel Jails Palestinian Circus Performer Without Charge

January 20, 2016

Israel Jails Palestinian Circus Performer Without Charge

A 23-year-old Palestinian man, Mohammad Faisal Abu Sakha, has been detained by the Israeli military, without charge or any explanation, since 14 December. He has not been allowed visits from his family.

Mohammad Faisal Abu Sakha was detained by Israeli soldiers on 14 December, as he was on his way from his parents’ home, in the occupied West Bank city of Jenin, to his work at the Palestinian Circus School in Birzeit, next to Ramallah. Israeli soldiers detained him at the Zaatara checkpoint, close to the West Bank city of Nablus, and took him to the nearby Hawara military detention centre. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has told his parents that he is now in Megiddo prison, in northern Israel, though his family have not been allowed to visit him.

The Israeli military handed him a six-month administrative detention order in late December, allowing them to detain him without charge indefinitely. Detainees are denied the right to defend themselves or effectively challenge the legality of their detention because the authorities largely withhold the “evidence” against them from them and their lawyers. A military judge is understood to have reviewed the order on 5 January, at the Ofer military court in the north of the West Bank. The military judge can cancel, reduce or uphold the order but has not yet made a decision. The Al Jazeera news website quoted an Israeli military spokesperson that day as saying that Mohammad Faisal Abu Sakha was being held because he posed a “danger… to the security of the region” and that the details of his case were "confidential”. The Israeli authorities have increased their use of administrative detention dramatically since October 2015: over 580 Palestinians were in administrative detention by the end of the year.

Mohammad Faisal Abu Sakha began studying at the Palestinian Circus School in 2007 and became one of its performers in 2011, also training children in circus acts. He specializes in teaching children with learning difficulties, who make up 30 of the more than 300 students at the school.