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Israel expels French-Palestinian rights lawyer Salah Hamouri

Israel expelled French-Palestinian human rights lawyer Salah Hamouri on Sunday, the culmination of a lengthy judicial saga in which he was accused of security offences and held without charge since March.

Hamouri, 37, had been held under a controversial practice known as administrative detention, which allows suspects to be detained for renewable periods of up to six months.

He “was deported this morning to France following Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked’s decision to withdraw his residency status”, the ministry said in a statement.

His family and supporters were expecting the deportation to take place on a Tel Aviv-Paris flight by Israeli airline El Al.

The supporters said Hamouri’s deportation from his birthplace by an “occupying power” was illegal.

An Israeli military court sentenced Hamouri, who holds French citizenship, to administrative detention in March. It accused him of being a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), and said he “endangers security in the region”.

Israel, the United States and the European Union consider the PFLP a “terrorist group”. It has been implicated in several deadly attacks on Israelis.

Hamouri denies links to the PFLP.

He has been arrested and jailed by Israeli authorities on several occasions, including in 2005.

Following that arrest he was tried and convicted by an Israeli court on charges of plotting to assassinate Ovadia Yosef, a prominent rabbi and spiritual leader of the ultra-Orthodox Shas political party.

Hamouri was released in December 2011 as part of a prisoner swap.

He has always maintained his innocence.

Born in East Jerusalem, Hamouri does not have Israeli nationality, but he held a residency permit that Israeli authorities revoked.

Israel has occupied the West Bank and east Jerusalem since the 1967 Six-Day War.

Last month, he was informed he would be deported, but the expulsion was delayed as his lawyers contested the case.

– ‘A great achievement’ –

There had been increasing indications since Friday evening that Hamouri would be expelled. Arab-Israeli lawmaker Aida Touma-Sliman on Saturday wrote to Defence Minister Benny Gantz in an appeal to prevent Hamouri’s removal.

Earlier this month, Israeli authorities confirmed the revocation of his residency, paving the way for Hamouri’s imminent expulsion despite a new administrative detention hearing scheduled for January 1.

“It is a great achievement to have been able to cause, just before the end of my term, his expulsion,” Interior Minister Shaked said on Sunday.

Benjamin Netanyahu, winner of the November 1 legislative elections, is expected to form a new Israeli government with allies from ultra-Orthodox and far-right parties.

Hamouri worked for the prisoner support group Addameer. In November 2021 it was among six Palestinian civil society group that Israel’s army said could no longer operate legally in the West Bank, after Gantz said they were collaborating with the PFLP.

Hamouri’s lawyer Leah Tsemel had expressed fear that the future government would resort to other deportations of Palestinians born in Jerusalem.

On Sunday Amnesty International and French non-governmental organisations said Hamouri’s deportation aimed to hinder his human rights work.

They said it was also part of Israel’s “long-term political objective to diminish the Palestinian population” of annexed east Jerusalem, which Palestinians want as the capital of a future state.

“We didn’t think it was possible to deport somebody from his birthplace,” Hamouri’s mother Denise said earlier.

In April Hamouri, along with rights groups, filed a complaint in France against Israeli surveillance firm NSO Group for having “illegally infiltrated” his mobile phone with the spyware Pegasus.

He is one of several Palestinian activists whose phones were hacked using the Pegasus malware, according to a report in November by human rights groups.