France Criticizes Israel After Palestinian Lawyer Deported
Israel has deported Palestinian lawyer and activist Salah Hammouri to France, the Israeli Interior Ministry said Sunday, claiming he has ties to a banned militant group.
"I'm happy to announce that justice was served today and the terrorist Salah Hammouri was deported from Israel," Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked said in a videotaped statement.
The decision drew criticism from the French government, who said deporting Hammouri was "against the law."
Upon arrival in Paris, Hammouri said that he had "changed location but the fight continues."
"We can't abandon Palestine. Resistance is our right," he said.
Who is Salah Hammouri and why was he deported?
Israel says Hammouri, who was born in Jerusalem but holds French citizenship, is an activist in the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).
The EU, the US, and the Israeli government have labeled the PFLP a terrorist organization.
Hammouri has worked as a lawyer for Adameer, a rights group that assists Palestinian prisoners, which Israel has banned for alleged ties to the PFLP.
The French national spent seven years in jail after being convicted in an alleged plot to kill prominent rabbi Ovadia Joseph but was released in a 2011 prisoner swap with the Hamas militant group.
Israel accused Hammouri of maintaining his connection with the group and stripped him of residency.
In March, he was placed in administrative detention, a status that allows Israel to hold suspected militants for six months at a time without charge or trial.
Hammouri has not been charged in the current case, but his deportation was ordered when his detention order expired.
Palestinians are not automatically entitled to Israeli citizenship
Why is Hammouri's case important?
Activists say the expulsion underscores the tough position of Palestinians in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem.
While Jewish residents of Jerusalem are entitled to automatic citizenship, Palestinians are not. Instead, they are given revocable residency rights. This gives them freedom of movement, the ability to work and access to Israeli social services, but not the ability to vote in national elections.
Palestinians can apply for citizenship. But those who do face a lengthy and bureaucratic process and only a third succeed, according to Israeli media.
Although Israel's Supreme Court had rejected an appeal against the decision to revoke Hammouri's residency status, his case was due to be heard again on January 1.
It was not immediately clear how Israel was able to push ahead with the deportation despite the ongoing legal case.
However, Interior Minister Shaked is close to the end of his term as Benjamin Netanyahu, winner of the November 1 elections, is days away from forming a new government.
What was the reaction to the expulsion?
France's Foreign Ministry said it has taken steps to communicate "in the clearest way" to Israel that it is against the move. Paris has also "taken full action, including at the highest level of the state, to ensure that Mr. Salah Hammouri's rights are respected, that he benefits from all legal remedies and that he can lead a normal life in Jerusalem, where he was born, resides and wishes to live."
Meanwhile, Amnesty International said the expulsion could amount to a war crime.
"The goal of the Israeli authorities is clear: to reduce the presence of Palestinians in East Jerusalem," the rights group said in a statement.
Jessica Montell, director of the Israeli human rights group HaMoked, which had defended Hammouri, wrote: "Deporting a Palestinian from their homeland for breach of allegiance to the state of Israel is a dangerous precedent and a gross violation of basic rights."
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