There have been many disruption for footballers and officials travelling to and from Palestine. However, on Monday, January 7, 2019, for the first time ever a Palestinian official was actually arrested. The charge, made verbally, was “buying weapon components from the internet”. What were those weapon components? It turns out that they were a camera!
The charge is clearly totally spurious, see below, and is a clear demonstration of increasing harassment of Palestinians that appears to be taking place across Palestine and Israel. For Palestinians in the West Bank this can be extremely serious: there can be unlimited detention without trial under the Administrative Detention regulation or the more stringent Unlawful Combatants regulation.
The facts are as follows. That Monday the Palestinian FA’s Vice President for International Affairs, Ms Susan Shalabi, was returning to Palestine from the United Arab Emirates after the opening games of the Asian Cup tournament. (Ms Shalabi was a member of the Organising Committee) She was arrested crossing from Jordan at the Allenby Bridge checkpoint.
She was held at the border at 11am for about 70 minutes before being handcuffed and taken to a police station in the settlement of Shaar Benyamin where she was detained and interrogated. She was charged with “buying weapon components from the internet” and was released on bail on payment of over US$400. She had previously purchased a new camera from a Chinese web company and was expecting to receive it any day (Ms Shalabi is a renowned photographer, see her work on Google World and elsewhere on the web). She didn’t have the camera. But the Israeli Border control did have it! The officer concerned alleged that it “could be mounted on an M16 rifle”, which joint examination of the camera showed was ludicrous. The Border Police kept the camera and confiscated her mobile phone.
She was originally told she was to be held overnight. However a Palestinian organisation that tracks the imprisonment of Palestinians by Israel (known as the ‘Prisoners’ Club’ !) negotiated her release so she was bailed out at about 7pm.
Since then she has been told that charges will not be pressed and her phone has been returned. By 10 February the bail bond has not been returned. So the whole event has been purely and simply harassment with border police making what they knew were trumped up charges.
We call on FIFA to take urgent action with the Israeli authorities to ensure that this sort of injustice is suppressed.
Inside World Football has reported on this incident: http://www.insideworldfootball.com/2019/02/06/fifa-moves-assert-closer-control-qatar-2022-delivery/