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The Detention Of Kenneth Roy O'keefe In Israel

The Detention Of Kenneth Roy O'keefe In Israel

Summary of a statement issued by Israeli authorities regarding Ken
O'Keefe's arrest and detention
Thursday 17th June, 2004
(translated from Hebrew)


"Kenneth Roy O'Keefe, an Irish citizen, came to Israel in March this year on a tourist visa. Part of his purpose was to research the issue of citizenship and its meaning in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, on behalf of the NGO "World Service", directed by Mr Gary Davis. In process of his work, O'Keefe met with Israeli academics, officials of the Palestinian Authority, and representatives of human rights organizations.

Mr O'Keefe was arrested on 10.6.04 for entering an area designated as belonging to the Palestinian Authority in the Gaza Strip. He and an associate, Ian Hutchison, a British subject, had crossed the Erez Barrier, then took a bus that they thought would take them to Gaza. After they got off the bus they walked along the beach and were arrested near a sign saying the place was a closed military area. (The area was declared closed by a military decree in 1968, and later by a decree issued in 1994 and updated in 2003.)

A deportation order has been issued against Mr O'Keefe by the Ministry of the Interior and the Chief of the Immigration Service, together with an order to keep him in custody till he leaves the country. HE HAS BEEN HELD IN DETENTION IN A CAMP IN GAZA, NEAR RAFAH, SINCE THEN, AND HAS BEEN ON A HUNGER STRIKE FOR THE PAST FEW DAYS.

Although he had appointed an attorney, O'Keefes case was heard without his legal representative's presence.

Mr O'Keefes attorneys have appealed to the District Court, arguing that the deportation order smells of political motives, in view of the petitioner's involvement with issues of human and civil rights.

Moreover, they argue that it is unnecessary to hold Mr O'Keefe in custody pending the court's decision, since there is no possibility of flight, and the detention therefore becomes an uncalled for penalty.

Concerning the circumstances of the arrest of Mr O'Keefe and his associate at the Erez Barrier in Gaza, the petition notes that they were not stopped by the soldiers manning the barrier, who examined their papers and permitted them to cross. The arguments brought up by the Ministry of the Interior (namely, that the two had committed security breaches and violated a military order) to justify cancelling their visas, cannot stand, since the petitioner had several times crossed into the Occupied Territories in connection with the project he is engaged in, and was never stopped, examined, or interrogated by anyone.

Among the arguments brought forward by the State, it notes that the petitioner crossed the boundary between Israel and the Palestinian Authority 'by water' - ie, avoiding the barrier on land (Erez). It further states that the petitioner came to Israel, in his own words, to promote the idea of a regional ceasefire (Hudna) which would include all the Palestinian movements. In this connection, it notes, he made contact with Palestinian terror activists and foreign activists, whose activities interfere with the operations of the Israeli security forces in the area.

Moreover, the State notes that the petitioner expressed solidarity with the Palestinians' armed struggle against Israel and said that Israel uses terrorist methods. He also stated that he did not recognize the Israeli law barring his entry into the territory of the Palestinian Authority.

The State argues that it is within its sovereign rights to remove foreigners and refuse them the right to remain whenever it becomes undersirable to allow them to stay. It cites a number of cases in which the High Court of Justice upheld the decision of the Ministry of the Interior to expel individual foreigners for similar activities."


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