Israel risks diplomatic row by deporting Palestinian lawyer to France

Israel risks diplomatic row by deporting Palestinian lawyer to France

Salah Hammouri speaks to the press
Salah Hammouri speaks to the press

Israel said it had deported a Palestinian lawyer and activist to France, claiming he had ties to a banned militant group, despite objections from the French government.

Salah Hammouri’s expulsion underscored the fragile status of Palestinians in Israel-annexed East Jerusalem, where most have revocable residency rights but are not Israeli citizens.

It also created a possible diplomatic row with France, which had repeatedly appealed to Israel not to go through with the expulsion.

“I am pleased to announce that justice was done today and terrorist Salah Hammouri was expelled from Israel,” Israel’s Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked said.

Mr. Hammouri was born in Jerusalem but has French nationality.

Israel says Mr Hammouri is an activist with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a group it has labeled a terrorist organization.

He has worked as a lawyer for Adameer, a human rights group that supports Palestinian prisoners that Israel has banned for alleged links to the PFLP.

He spent seven years in prison after being convicted of allegedly conspiring to assassinate a prominent rabbi, but was released in a 2011 prisoner swap with the militant Hamas group. He was not convicted in the most recent trial against him.

Israel, however, claimed he continued his activities with the banned group, stripped him of his residency permit and placed him in administrative detention last March – a status that allows Israel to detain suspected militants for months without charge or trial.

Mr Hammouri was not charged in the current case but Ms Shaked ordered the deportation when his warrant expired.

The Israeli Supreme Court had dismissed an appeal against the decision to suspend Mr Hammouri’s residency status.

France’s Foreign Ministry condemned Israel’s deportation of Mr Hammouri after he landed in Paris, saying it had taken “comprehensive measures, including at the highest government level, to ensure that Mr Salah Hamouri’s rights are respected, that he is benefits from all legal remedies and that he can lead a normal life in Jerusalem, where he was born, lives and wants to live”.

The Israeli human rights group HaMoked, which had defended Mr Hammouri, condemned the expulsion.

A hearing on the matter was scheduled for January 1 and it was not immediately clear how Israel could go ahead with the deportation.

“The deportation of a Palestinian from his homeland for betrayal of the State of Israel sets a dangerous precedent and a gross violation of fundamental rights,” said the group’s director, Jessica Montell.

“HaMoked will continue to fight against this unconstitutional law.”

Last year, Mr. Hammouri was among six human rights activists whose mobile phones were infected with spyware from the Israeli company NSO Group by independent security researchers.

It was not known who installed the spyware on the phones.

Israel said there was no connection between Adameer’s terror designation and five other Palestinian rights groups and the alleged use of NSO spyware.

Israel has publicly presented little evidence to support the designation as terrorism, which Palestinian groups say is intended to muzzle them and dry up their sources of funding.

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