Israel’s interior ministry said it had deported a French Palestinian human rights lawyer after accusing him of a security threat. The ministry said 37-year-old Salah Hammouri was escorted by police on a flight to France early Sunday morning. Having lived in Jerusalem all his life, he was stripped of his residency after authorities accused him of being a member of a terrorist organization. Hammouri has denied the charges, and human rights groups have condemned the move. The French Foreign Ministry also expressed disappointment with the decision, condemning the “illegal decision of the Israeli authorities to exile Sarah Hamri to France”. However, the Israeli Interior Ministry said in a statement that Hamri “organized, instigated, and planned terrorist attacks” against “citizens and known Israelis”.
Outgoing Israeli government member Ayelet Sheik, the Interior Minister, hailed the move as a personal success. “The terrorist was brought to justice and he was expelled from Israel,” she said in her statement. “It has been a long, long process, but it is a great achievement that we were able to force his deportation shortly before the end of his term, using the means at our disposal to further the fight against terrorism.” Mr. Hammouri obtained his French citizenship through his mother. He had residency rights in Jerusalem, a fragile system used by Palestinians in East Jerusalem annexed by Israel, which could be revoked by the authorities. He does not have Israeli citizenship.
He works for He Addameer, a Palestinian legal aid and prisoners’ rights group that was classified as a terrorist organization along with his five other Palestinian civil society groups by the Israeli Defense Ministry in October 2021. The military said it had ties to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a Palestinian extremist group that views Israel as a terrorist organization. In 2005, he was charged with attempting to assassinate an ultra-Orthodox rabbi and political leader and was sentenced to six years in prison, which he denied. In March, Mr. Hamri was arrested and the commander of the Israeli army in the occupied West Bank ordered him to be put in so-called administrative detention for three months without charge or trial. Such arrest warrants are routinely used by Israel to detain suspected Islamist militants for months without charge or trial. After four months in prison, Hamri wrote a letter to French President Emmanuel Macron asking for help. He was then classified as a “high-risk prisoner” and transferred to a high-security prison in central Israel.
At the end of September, he went on a hunger strike to protest the administrative detention. He ended it 19 days later, during which he was reportedly held in solitary confinement. He was told last month that he would be deported without trial, but the deportation was delayed after his lawyer challenged the lawsuit. The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal earlier this month. Amnesty International condemned his deportation, saying he “has paid a heavy price for his work to defend the Palestinian people”. “Expulsion from the occupied Palestinian territory is a grave violation of international law and the Fourth Geneva Convention and constitutes a potential war crime,” the panel added. “It could also constitute a crime against humanity.” the Palestinian rights group Hamoked said the deportation would set a “dangerous precedent” and constituted a “grave violation of fundamental rights.”