Israel releases Palestinian lawmaker ‘Abu Tair’ after 17 months in prison

Palestinian Jerusalemite lawmaker Muhammad Abu Tair was released from Israel’s Ktziot prison in the Negev desert Tuesday morning after serving out a 17-month sentence.

The Palestinian Prisoners’ Center for Studies reported on its website that following Abu Tair’s release, the number of “abducted Palestinian legislators” dropped to 11, which includes Fatah leader Marwan Barghouthi and Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine Secretary-General Ahmad Saadat.

Abu Tair, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) from the Change and Reform Bloc of the Hamas movement representing Jerusalem, was detained on Jan. 28, 2016 from his home in the occupied West Bank town of Kafr Aqab — where he has resided since Israel deported him from occupied East Jerusalem in 2010.

An Israeli army spokesperson, without identifying Abu Tair by name, had said that he and another Palestinian detained in Kafr Aqab the same night were “Hamas terror operatives.”

He languished in detention until he was formally sentenced to 17 months in prison on Dec. 13, 2016.

At the time of Abu Tair’s sentencing, fellow exiled Jerusalem lawmaker Ahmad Attun — who was detained in April 2017, when the number of Palestinian MPs detained by Israeli forces surged to 13 after five others were detained in a single month — described the Israeli court’s ruling as “part of a vicious campaign the Israeli occupation has been waging on the city of Jerusalem and its people, especially the active leaders.”

The 66-year-old MP has spent at least 32 years in Israeli custody on and off since he was first detained in 1974.

Israel considers the majority of Palestinian political parties to be “terrorist organizations.” As a result, most Palestinians who participate in the political arena in the occupied Palestinian territory risk being imprisoned by Israeli authorities.

The targeting of PLC members by Israel — particularly those believed to be affiliated with Hamas — surged in the lead-up to and aftermath of Palestinian legislative elections in 2006, which Hamas won, becoming the ruling party in the Gaza Strip as a result.

Palestinian prisoners’ rights group Addameer has said that “Palestinian political leaders are routinely arrested and detained as part of an ongoing Israeli effort to suppress Palestinian political processes — and, as a result, Palestinian political sovereignty and self-determination.”

According to Addameer, “The (Israeli) occupation forces continued to prosecute members of the Palestinian Legislative Council since 2006, and arbitrarily incarcerate them after putting them on trial before military courts that lack guarantees to a fair trial.”