Israel deports French-Palestinian lawyer

Salah Hamouri in the West Bank city of Ramallah. AFP

Israel has deported a French-Palestinian lawyer, escorting him to an airport for a flight to France on Sunday. The Israeli government has accused Salah Hamouri of working with a terrorist group.

He was sentenced to 12 years in prison in 2005, accused of being involved in a plot to assassinate Israel’s Chief Rabbi, although no trial was conducted.

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He is expected to join his wife, who lives in France and was banned from entering Israel in 2016. His supporters say Mr Hamouri was not given access to legal representation.

In December, authorities cancelled his residency status, accusing him of being a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a left-wing militant organisation which is part of the Palestine Liberation Organisation.

Rights advocates are worried the new Israeli government will deport Palestinians suspected of supporting terrorist groups. Itamar Ben-Gvir, a far-right Israeli politician expected to head a police ministry with powers in the occupied West Bank, has been a vocal advocate of such a policy.

Mr Ben Gvir’s expected role as national security minister has inflamed controversy in Israel due to his past support for Meir Kahane, an extremist Rabbi linked to a 1994 terrorist attack at the Ibrahimi mosque in Hebron, which killed 29 people.

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Israel’s Interior Ministry appeared to reference historic allegations against Mr Hamouri on Sunday.

“During his life he organised, inspired and planned to commit terror attacks on his own and for the organisation against citizens and well-known Israelis,” the ministry said.

Mr Hamouri’s supporters called the deportation a “war crime” and said it constitutes a breach of international law.

“Wherever a Palestinian goes, he takes with him these principles and the cause of his people: his homeland carried with him to wherever he ends up,” Mr Hamouri said.

He was most recently held by Israel under administrative detention without charge from March 7 to December 1, when Israel revoked his residency and said he would be deported.

He was previously detained by Israel between 2005 and 2011 after being accused of attempting to assassinate Sephardi rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the founder of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, but has always maintained his innocence.

Mr Hamouri was released in December 2011 as part of an exchange of prisoners for Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier released in October 2011 after five years in captivity in the Gaza Strip at the hands of Hamas.

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The French consulate in Jerusalem had no immediate comment on Sunday.

The overwhelming majority of East Jerusalem’s more than 340,000 Palestinians hold Israeli residency permits, but few have citizenship in Israel, which considers the entire holy city as its eternal, undivided capital.

The Palestinians have long sought the city’s east, which Israel captured in a 1967 war and later annexed in a move not recognised internationally, as the capital of a future state.

Jessica Montell, executive director of HaMoked, which represents Mr Hamouri, told Reuters that other Jerusalem residents have been charged with breach of allegiance and had their residency revoked in the past but could not be deported as they hold no other citizenship.

Mr Hamouri’s case, therefore, sets a precedent for the deportation of Jerusalem residents who hold alternative citizenship, Ms Montell said.

“Because he holds a second nationality, that makes him more vulnerable to deportation,” said Ms Montell. Similar cases will emerge more frequently with a new right-wing coalition expected to form Israel’s next government, she added.

“We can only expect that all of these measures will accelerate with this new government coming in,” said Ms Montell.

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