Israeli court drops ‘terrorism’ charge on Manasra as #FreeAhmadManasra campaign gains momentum

13-year old Palestinian Ahmed Manasra during a hearing at a Jerusalem court in October 2015 - six years ago (Ahmad Gharabli - AFP)

Sally Ibrahim

The New Arab  /  April 13, 2022

MENA

An Israeli court dropped charges of “terrorism” against Palestinian prisoner Ahmed Manasra on Wednesday, amid an international campaign calling for his release due to him suffering from physical and mental health issues. 

In 2015, Israeli authorities arrested Manasra, 13-years-old at the time, after he was seriously wounded by Israeli soldiers, while his cousin, Hassan Manasra, was killed. 

Moreover, a video was leaked during that period depicting Israeli investigators trying to force Manasra to confess to an attempt to stab settlers. The video shows the young boy  looking scared and exhausted, repeated saying throughout the investigation, “I don’t remember.”

Manasra was initially sentenced to 12 years in prison, which was later reduced to nine years.

Speaking to The New Arab, Ahmed Zabarka, Manasra’s lawyer, said that the new decision “gives us hope that Manasra’s early release will be considered, especially since he was arrested when he was a child.”

“The Israeli court transferred the appeal submitted to a special committee to discuss it and issue a ruling,” Zabarka said, further adding that that committee will decide whether Manasra had committed a “terrorist act or not.”

The lawyer also noted that “we have come a long way to reach this result (…) and we hope that we will be able to obtain the decision to release him soon, especially since he has served two-thirds of his prison sentence.”

The hearing to review Manasra’s case was held at the Beersheba (Beer Sabaa) district court on Wednesday afternoon.

According to Manasra’s family, he was severely beaten while in custody, which caused a fracture in his skull and the onset of hematoma, and he currently suffers from severe headaches and chronic and acute pain.

“Unfortunately, the Israeli authorities did not have mercy on my son. They practiced the most extreme forms of torture and physical and psychological intimidation against him, such as long interrogations and sleep deprivation, which caused severe and chronic pain in the head,” Maysoon Manasra, his mother, said to The New Arab.

“My son experienced solitary confinement and was deprived of mixing with other prisoners. He was denied visits from his family, which compounded his suffering,” his mother said. 

“Although many years have passed since my son’s arrest, I do not know why they arrested him while he is still a child who knows nothing but playing with children in the street,” she added.  

In an attempt to pressure the Israeli courts for his release, the Global Mental Health Network in the Palestinian Territories launched an international campaign using the hashtag #FreeAhmadManasra.

So far, thousands of Palestinians and other Arab and foreign activists have used the hashtag, sharing several photos, videos, and illustrations to raise awareness regarding his case.

“This online campaign has made us hopeful again that my son may be released soon, especially since he entered prison as a child and is innocent of any charges against him,” Maysoon said.

“My son was thinking about suicide and death. He told the lawyer about it, but today he has become more optimistic that he will soon return to his home if the Israeli court accepts the lawyer’s request and treats him as a child and not a criminal,” she added.

For his part, Bilal Odeh, one of the organizers behind the digital campaign advocating for Manasra’s release, told The New Arab that “although we do not rely much on the Israeli courts, the judiciary is one of the doors that can be knocked, and the digital campaign is an aid to pressure it.”

Odeh further explained that the campaign witnessed intense interaction through the media and social platforms in the hours leading up to the recent court session, noting that this is a “positive indication that the Manasra case has become global.”

“Ahmed is facing a very difficult situation, which poses a threat to his mental health. He must be released immediately to be with his parents and family (…) Our journey may be long, but we have great hope of ending this young man’s suffering. Our campaign will continue until he is free,” he said.

Sally Ibrahim is The New Arab’s correspondent from Gaza