FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Today, July 22nd, an Israeli judge decided today in administrative court to deport Maria Nikiforou, a 34 year old human rights worker, without a hearing. The security has informed Maria that they will put her on the next available flight, tomorrow morning to Olympia, Greece. Maria’s case is indicative of a pattern by the Israeli government of preventing international human rights workers from aiding the Palestinian people, and denying international activists the right to due process in court.
Maria’s lawyers, Leah Tsemel and Yoni Lerman, filed an appeal against her denial of entry, but the judge has refused to examine it. Instead he is complying with the charges, claiming that Maria is a threat to the state of Israel, a charge backed by completely secret evidence.
Maria was denied entry into Israel on Friday July 14th and has been in detention, mostly in isolated confinement, since her arrival as she awaits her hearing. The Israeli authorities claimed that she is denied entry because she is a “security threat to the state of Israel,” and that she is a part of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), which they called an “illegal organization.” In fact, the Israeli courts have ruled that being a member of ISM is not reason enough to deport foreign nationals, and that the group has never been deemed illegal. ISM is a Palestinian-led, non-violent resistance movement that works to support local Palestinians in their non-violent struggle against the occupation.
The state of Israel has made public its intentions to increase the denial of entry to international human rights workers, as well as Palestinians with foreign passports. Many fear that the complete closure and isolation of the Gaza Strip will be replicated in the West Bank.
Paul Larudee, a 60 year-old piano tuner from California, was denied entry last month based entirely on secret evidence provided by the Israeli General Security Service. Secret evidence is expected to form the basis of evidence against Maria also. This sort of procedure is common in the Israeli military-legal system, through which thousands of Palestinians have been sentenced to renewable periods of “administrative detention,” based on secret charges that are in turn based on secret evidence.
It is inevitable that democratic values in the Israeli legal system, such as an individual’s right to defend themselves in court have been eroded. The Israeli civil court system cannot respect human rights as long as there is a parallel military legal system in which the human rights of Palestinians are disregarded.
Over 15,000 people have been denied entry into Israel in the last five years. Some examples from May 2006 include: Kate Maynard, a UK Human Rights Lawyer; Raeed Tayeh, a Palestinian American former public affairs director for the Muslim American Society; and Enayeh Adel Samara, a US citizen who is married to a Palestinian, owns a business in Ramallah and has two children who were born in Jerusalem.
For more information:
Maria Nikiforou 054 214 3752
ISM media office 02 297 1824