Israel holds female Palestinian rights lawyer without trial or charge

Human rights defender Diala Ayesh, 28, has been held in administrative detention since January 17.

Al Jazeera

Ramallah, occupied West Bank – Two days before her arrest by the Israeli army, 28-year-old Palestinian human rights lawyer Diala Ayesh had been visiting Palestinian detainees in Israel’s Ofer Prison.

Little did she know that the next day, she would become one of the people she has spent her life’s work defending – a prisoner.

On January 17, Israeli forces arrested Ayesh at a checkpoint near Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank at about 2pm. One week later, Israeli authorities issued an “administrative detention” order against her, meaning she will be held without trial or charge for four months.

News of Ayesh’s arrest spread quickly across the occupied West Bank. She has worked for years – often pro bono – defending Palestinian political detainees in both Israeli or Palestinian Authority (PA) prisons.

Her family are still in shock over her arrest.

“We feel that it is getting harder every day. The feeling of loss and of missing someone only increases – it doesn’t get easier,” her 26-year-old sister, Aseel, told Al Jazeera.

“Whenever I cry at night in bed, or feel like I miss her, I try to remember how extremely strong she is,” continued Aseel, sobbing. “We feel that we are the ones who are weak, and she is the strong one. We derive our strength from her.”

Targeted by Israel and the PA

Even while behind bars, Ayesh’s top concern is the other prisoners.

After October 7, when Israel launched its ongoing assault on the besieged Gaza Strip, Ayesh formed a volunteer collective of female lawyers to follow up on the unprecedented numbers of Palestinians being arrested by the Israeli army in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.

“She would train these female lawyers to conduct visits to the occupation’s Ofer prison, particularly amid this information blackout about prisoners,” Muhannad Karajeh, her former colleague and head of Lawyers for Justice, where she used to work, told Al Jazeera.

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