Outcry as US-Palestinian teenager in Israeli military prison for throwing stones
The imprisonment by Israel of a 14-year old boy with joint US-Palestinian citizenship has provoked widespread criticism amongst human rights groups. The boy went before a military court on Thursday accused of throwing stones at Israeli cars.
Mohammed Khalek, who was born in New Orleans, was officially charged Thursday, along with two other youths, of pelting Israeli military and settler vehicles with stones outside the village of Silwad in the occupied West Bank.
The boy was arrested in the early hours of April 5th when heavily armed Israeli forces entered the family home. During the course of the arrest the braces on his teeth were broken.
The case was adjourned until next week, and his father, Abdulwahab Khalek, has accused the US of not doing enough to help his son.
“The US government is obliged to do something for us, but it doesn’t even care. They’ve lost the issue somewhere in their back pocket,” he said.
The US consulate in Jerusalem has declined to comment on the issue.
Randa Wahbe, an advocacy officer representing Mohammed, told RT that he has been potentially abused while in detention.
“He has told me that he has been slapped in the prison, his braces are broken off and we are concerned that he is being mistreated while under interrogation,” she said.
She said that there have been several cases of other children being forced to confess, of being denied access to family members and lawyers and threatened with sexual abuse and not being able to go back to school.
“In the case of Mohammed, he was told by interrogators that if he confessed he would be allowed to go home with his father, but when he confessed, his interrogation was extended for a further two days,” she said. Mahammed has not been allowed to see his father since then, except in court.
Defense of Children International, a human rights group, said there are 236 Palestinian children aged 12-17 among a total of 4,800 Palestinians in Israeli jails.
A UN study in March this year showed that Israel systematically and gravely violated the rights of Palestinians.
“The Israeli military’s treatment of Mahammed Khalek is appalling and all too common. There’s no justification for shackling him for 12 hours and interrogating him while refusing to let him see his father or a lawyer,” Bill Van Esveld, a researcher for Human Rights Watch, told Reuters.
The Israelis insist they need to crack down on potentially lethal stone throwing. Stones thrown by Palestinians last month caused a car to crash that left a three year old critically injured. In 2011 an American born settler was killed in is car outside Hebron by rocks hurled by Palestinian youths.
“These kind of events show you that throwing stones is not a game – it endangers innocent lives. The throwers age doesn’t change the fact that these objects kill, and it’s something we take seriously,” said an Israeli army spokesman.
Palestinians living on the West Bank are subject to a strict military law, which in theory means someone can be sentenced for up to 20 years for throwing stones at vehicles.
Since Israel occupied the West Bank in 1967, some 350,000 Israeli settlers have moved there, they are subject to Israeli law which is much more lenient.
Palestinians complain that they are regularly pelted with stones by Israeli settlers but that Israeli troops rarely intervene even when there are witnesses.
“Look at this oppression – a big strong army has nothing to do but harass little kids?” said Ali Hamid, the father of a 16-year old who was in the courtroom dock.