Human rights groups have in recent weeks put a spotlight on the case of a 23-year-old Palestinian circus performer and trainer who has been held in an Israeli prison since last December without trial or charge.
Calling for the release of Muhammad Faisal Abu Sakha, Amnesty International said: “He hasn’t been charged with a crime and the authorities refuse to give a reason for his detention.”
Abu Sakha was working as a circus performer and teacher at the Palestinian Circus School in Birzeit — where he specialized in working with children with learning difficulties — when he was detained on Dec. 14.
He was apprehended at an Israeli checkpoint while travelling from his parents’ home to the circus school. He was initially held in Megiddo prison in northern Israel before later being transferred to Ketziot prison in the Negev.
At the end of December, the circus performer was sentenced by an Israeli military court to six months in administrative detention — internment without trial or charge — and late last month, an appeal by his lawyers against the sentence was dismissed.
Amnesty has condemned Israel’s military courts for suggesting Abu Sakha posed a “security threat,” while at the same time withholding all alleged evidence against him.
“Mohammad Faisal Abu Sakha and his lawyers were in the impossible position of trying to challenge his detention without having access to the necessary information for his defense,” the group said in a statement.
Palestinian prisoners’ rights group Addameer has also condemned Israel for what it said “amounts to arbitrary detention.”
According to Addameer, Abu Sakha has been a circus performer and trainer since 2011, taking part in performances across Europe and the US, as well as numerous tours in Palestine.
According to Amnesty, the Palestinian Circus School itself has rejected Israel’s claims that Abu Sakha was a security threat, saying his life was dedicated to the circus and “making children happy.”
Abu Sakha asked his family to thank all those campaigning on his behalf, but according to Amnesty, he reiterated his greater concern for Palestinian children in Israeli custody, particularly those with mental and physical disabilities.
As of February this year, Israel was holding 7,000 Palestinian political detainees, including 406 children and 670 administrative detainees, according to Addameer.