17-year-old Palestinian Hamdi al-Ta'mari has finally been released from prison in Israel after one year held without charge.
On 25 July 2008, when Hamdi was just 16, Israeli soldiers entered his home in Bethlehem in the West Bank and arrested him at gunpoint. According to his family and to his own testimony they slapped, kicked and beat him with the butts of assault rifles, and bound his hands so tightly that they became swollen.
The Israeli military held Hamdi without charge in administrative detention from 25 July to 13 November 2008 and again from 18 December 2008 to 14 December 2009.
He was denied the right to a fair trial and all allegations the military has made against him are based on what the military judge calls "secret evidence". Moreover, his lengthy detention violates the provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), to which Israel is a party. Hamdi al-Ta’mari was one of some 290 Palestinian children detained in Israeli prisons, and he was the only child in administrative detention, held without charge or trial.
Hamdi was one of the individuals Amnesty International Ireland asked people to write to as part of our 2009 Greetings Card Campaign and our Child Network action for December. We also asked our members to send him cards as part of our Christmas appeal letter. Many thanks to all who took part.
Amnesty International spoke to Hamdi two days after he arrived home. He said:
"I received one card from Amnesty International members, at the beginning, that was the first one. Later the guards refused to pass on the cards to me, they just asked, 'Where are you getting all these letters from?' That way I knew I had many cards and that people knew about me, which made the guards pay attention. I wish I could receive those cards now. When I was released, the guard said 'You will just be out for a couple of weeks, then you'll be back' - maybe he was just kidding."
Hamdi plans to resume his studies and apply for the Palestinian secondary school final exams. Then he hopes to study at university and travel abroad. His whole family is rejoicing and he has been seeing his friends, who organised a party for him.
Hamdi would be happy to receive solidarity letters and, if possible, the letters that were not delivered to him when he was in prison. Continuing to write to Hamdi may also help to keep him home. The address:
PO Box 224