Israeli court refuses to release prisoner Ahmad Manasra

Manasra’s lawyers asked for his release citing his mental health condition, but the appeal was rejected.

Ahmad Manasra
Ahmad Manasra (C) was initially arrested at the age of 13 [File: Ammar Awad/Reuters]

Israeli authorities have refused to release a Palestinian prisoner who was initially arrested in horrific circumstances as a 13-year-old and is suffering from a serious deterioration in his mental health.

The Beersabe’ (Beersheva) district court ruled on Thursday that Ahmad Manasra, now 21, would not be released on the basis that his case fell under Israel’s “counterterrorism law” in response to an appeal filed by his lawyers.

Manasra, from occupied East Jerusalem, was arrested, interrogated and sentenced to nine years in prison at the age of 13 in a case that led to global outrage.

“This decision points to the fact that we are in front of an apartheid justice system,” Manasra’s lawyers said in a statement.

“Palestinian children, children that are 13 years old, are being tried over these types of files,” said Khaled Zabarqa, Manasra’s lawyer.

“As for Ahmad’s health condition, the court rejected the appeal on the basis that his condition is not dangerous enough for his release,” he added.

Local and international bodies, including the European Union and the United Nations, have called for the immediate release of Manasra.

Zabarqa told Al Jazeera that his team intends to take Manasra’s case to the Israeli Supreme Court.

Manasra appeared in court on Thursday, where he told journalists that he wanted to go home and that he had spent 10 months in solitary confinement so far.

In mid-August, Israeli courts extended his isolation to November, which his family described as “a form of slow execution”.

In December 2021, an external doctor was allowed to visit Manasra for the first time since his imprisonment. The doctor, a psychiatrist from Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres, or MSF), issued a medical report, which has since been attached to his case file, stating that Manasra suffers from schizophrenia.

Lawyers and doctors have said Manasra was exposed to “abuse, multiple physical, psychological, and social torture, including deprivation from family connectivity, visits and communication with his parents and brothers”.

Ahmad Manasra was initially sentenced to 12 years in prison, later reduced to nine years, for being with his cousin Hassan Manasra, who allegedly stabbed two Israeli settlers near the illegal settlement of Pisgat Ze’ev in East Jerusalem in 2015.

Hassan, who was 15 at the time, was shot dead by an Israeli civilian, while Ahmad was severely beaten by an Israeli mob and run over by an Israeli driver, suffering fractures to his skull and internal bleeding.

A video showing Ahmad Manasra bleeding on the ground and gasping for help and Israeli bystanders shouting and swearing at the boy, telling him to “die”, garnered widespread attention and outrage. Another video of Manasra undergoing extremely harsh Israeli interrogation after the incident caused further anger.

Despite not having participated in the attack – which the courts acknowledged – Manasra was charged with attempted murder.

Source: Al Jazeera