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Teenage girl released from prison: Awarta

15 April 2011 | International Solidarity Movement

Late on Thursday afternoon sixteen year old Julia Manzen Awwad arrived back to the village of Awarta, following her release from Israeli military prison. She had been detained for five days after being arrested by force during an army raid on her family home in the early hours of Sunday morning. Upon arrest Julia was taken blindfolded and bound by her wrists and ankles to the military base at Huwwara, where she was detained for a night. She was then transferred to a military prison.

During her detention Julia was denied basic human rights and prevented from contacting either her family or a lawyer. Instead she was confined to a dark room and intensively interrogated about the murders of the Fogel family at Itamar, the nearby illegal settlement. Julia described being woken at regular intervals and asked the same questions repeatedly. Confused and frightened she answered that she knew nothing, only to be met with aggressive retorts accusing her of lying.

Ill treatment and abuses included the refusal of her request for a doctor when experiencing stomach pains, being fed food she described as fit for animals, and being handcuffed and marched to the toilet furthest from her cell. At times she was not even allowed to use the toilet. Prior to her release Julia was coerced into signing a document she could not understand and had wires attached to various parts of her body during a lie detector test.

Whilst Julia was welcomed by her mother, Noaf, and extended family members, she spoke of the sorrow she felt returning to her house as her brothers, George (20) and Hakim (17), along with their father, Mazen, still remain in custody. Her mother, who was also detained in the raid last weekend, was released on Monday.

Earlier in the day a demonstration organized by a local Palestinian womens group marched through Awarta in protest at the barbaric treatment of the community at the hands of the Israeli army over the last month. In a show of solidarity it finished outside the homes of other members of the Awwad family, which were ransacked and destroyed by soldiers in a raid last Monday night.

Since the brutal murder of five family members in Itamar settlement at the beginning of March the villagers of Awarta have been subjected to near continuous incursions by the Israeli army. Men and women, some in their 80s, and children, some as young and 14, have been arrested. Whilst many have been released after a few days, others, mainly men, remain in detention. On these early morning raids, the army fire sound grenades through windows prior to forcing their way into homes and brutalizing the occupants – regardless of age.