Well-known political and women’s rights activist and Palestinian member of parliament, Khalida Jarrar, was released by the Israeli authorities on Sunday, September 26, after close to two years in prison. Jarrar, a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), was convicted by an Israeli military court on March 1 this year on charges of “membership in an illegal organization” and “inciting violence.” She was sentenced to a two-year prison term most of which she had already served under administrative detention by then.
The news of her release is being celebrated across Palestine. The PFLP called her a “comrade in arms” and praised her “patience and tenacity.” Israel has imposed a ban on the PFLP, and both Israel and the US have labeled it as a “terrorist organization” for its political and resistance activities against the Israeli occupation.
Jarrar was arrested by the Israeli security forces on October 31, 2019, barely eight months after her release from another round of imprisonment. She was held in administrative detention without charge or trial until her conviction. She was accused, along with several others, of being involved in the killing of an Israeli teenager, which Israel blamed on the PFLP. Her trial and conviction were reportedly based on secret evidence which was withheld even from her lawyer. In addition to the prison sentence, the court also imposed a fine of 4,000 Israeli Shekels (USD 1,250) on Jarrar. Her conviction and sentencing were widely condemned as unfair and baseless by human rights groups and Palestinian activists. Prisoners’ rights group Addameer said at the time that it “proves that Israel works against political opposition to the occupation, and uses its military court system to force its policy of domination and harm to the Palestinian people.”
In July, Israeli prison authorities refused to temporarily release Jarrar from prison on humanitarian grounds to attend her daughter Suha’s funeral after she died suddenly of a heart attack. Israeli authorities at the time said that Jarrar poses a “security threat” because of her “negative leadership roles” inside and out of prison. Israel’s refusal to temporary release her was denounced by rights groups and Palestinians. Addameer released a statement saying that “the denial of Khalida Jarrar’s release to mourn the sudden death of her daughter and participate in burial rights stands in stark violation of protected recognition of human dignity and family rights under international law.”
Israeli authorities have arrested and held Jarrar inside prison multiple times in the past, going as far as back as 1989 when she was kept in prison for a month without trial. She was arrested again in 2014 and 2017 and held for 15 and 20 months, respectively. Israel has also banned her from traveling outside the occupied Palestinian territories (oPT) since 1998.
Elected to the Palestinian legislative council in the 2006 parliamentary elections, Jarrar is well-known around the world as an advocate for women’s and prisoners’ rights. She has represented Palestine in international forums as well, such as at the Council of Europe. In her capacity as a lawyer, she helped in drafting Palestine’s application for membership to the International Criminal Court (ICC). During her years of imprisonment, a widespread international campaign was launched by pro-Palestine activists and human rights groups to pressure Israel to grant her immediate and unconditional release, as well as to raise awareness in the international community about her detention and the illegal and arbitrary administrative detention of hundreds of Palestinians without charge or trial by Israel. According to Addameer, there are an estimated 5,300 Palestinians currently being held in Israeli prisons, with approximately 435 Palestinians being held under the administrative detention policy.