Children in Israeli Prisons Facing an Uncertain Future
On March 7, 2012, 15-year-old Zain Hisham Abu Maria was brutally arrested during a night raid, around 3.30 a.m. Soldiers grabbed him by his feet and hands while he was still in his bed, took him out, and blindfolded and arrested him. Now, nearly six months later, he is still in prison, accused of throwing stones. Zain has been told by the Judge that he is facing four years in prison. His next court meeting is scheduled to take place next week.
Zain is said to be a clever student. His fellow classmates keep a picture of him on his desk as a memory of their classmate who should be at school as other children are, not in prison. Like all Palestinian children in prison, he is not allowed to study. In addition, his arrest during spring means that he was not able to take the exams at the end of the semester and as a consequence he will have to repeat this year upon his release from prison, scheduled for 2016.
Zain is currently kept in HaSharon prison in Tel Aviv. While his mother is begging to visit her son, she and Zain’s brothers are denied the right to visit him, while only his father is permitted. As Palestinians in the West Bank are not allowed to enter Israel, Zain’s father has to travel with the Red Crescent from Hebron. Zain’s father says that his son is handcuffed when he visits him and that his face is yellow from lack of sunlight. Zain has told his father that they keep him in an isolated cell with no window for the most of the day and that loud kicking on the door every one or two hours deprives him of sleep. Sleep deprivation was judged to be in breach of Articles 1 and 16 of the UN Convention Against Torture by the Committee Against Torture on 05/09/1997.
Zain’s older brother Jihad Hisham Abu Maria(22) was arrested while working at a petrol station. The soldiers said they did not like his long hair and told his boss they would just keep him for five minutes. Those five minutes have now lasted for 20 months. Until this date he has not been given any reason for being arrested, but his verdict says that he will not be released until he has served 23 months. This is his fourth time in prison. Jihad has now lost two years of his study. Despite the fact that Israeli law grants family members the right to be kept in the same prison together, Zain and Jihad are kept in different prisons and thus do not get to see each other.
16 year old Basel Khaled Abu Maria was arrested at home at night March 6, 2012, when a total of sixty soldiers in ten military jeeps raided houses in Beit Ommar at 2 a.m. He was taken by the soldiers without getting time to put on more clothes in the cold night. It was a frightening event for the whole family, especially his little sister. He was accused of throwing stones and has now spent nearly 6 months in prison. Like Zain, he has been told that he is facing four years in prison.