‘Slow execution’: Israel extends Ahmad Manasra’s prison isolation

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An Israeli court extends the solitary confinement of Palestinian prisoner Ahmad Manasra, who suffers from mental health issues.

Occupied East Jerusalem – An Israeli court has extended the solitary confinement of Palestinian prisoner Ahmad Manasra, who suffers from serious mental health problems.

A hearing for the 21-year-old was held on Tuesday at the Beer Sheva district court, where authorities ruled to further extend his time in solitary confinement by another six months. His period in solitary confinement was due to end in May.

The extension means Manasra will remain in solitary until November. By then, he will have spent a year in an isolated cell, cut off from normal contact with other Palestinian prisoners.

“This is a form of slow execution,” Manasra’s uncle, who bears the same name, Ahmad Manasra, told Al Jazeera.

“What is happening is the furthest thing from humane,” he said. “Isolating him makes his mental health condition worse.”

Manasra’s case has made global headlines since he was arrested at age 13 and interrogated under horrific circumstances in 2015.

His cousin, who was 15 at the time, was shot dead by an Israeli civilian after allegedly stabbing two Israeli settlers in occupied East Jerusalem. Manasra was himself attacked by a group of Israelis and run over by an Israeli driver, suffering fractures to his skull and internal bleeding.

The courts acknowledged that Manasra did not participate in the attack but still charged him with attempted murder. He was sentenced to 12 years in prison in 2016, later reduced to nine years.

Signs of his mental health deteriorating began appearing at the end of 2020, according to his family, and he has been held in solitary since the end of 2021.

‘Needs to be treated, not to be punished’

Khaled Zabarqa, Manasra’s lawyer, said that aside from granting his client early release, which Israel has refused to do, “the court should have transferred him to the general prison” where other Palestinians can care for him.

“We told them that there are Palestinian prisoners who know of his situation and are ready to take responsibility for him and take care of him,” Zabarqa told Al Jazeera.

“Placing him in solitary confinement is punishment for a child who is mentally ill – he needs to be treated, not to be punished,” said Zabarqa, who described his client as “suffering” in his present situation.

Israeli authorities claim they are keeping Manasra in isolation and under surveillance because he poses a threat to himself and other prisoners, his lawyer said.

In December 2021, an external doctor was allowed to visit Manasra for the first time since his imprisonment. The doctor, a psychiatrist from Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres, or MSF), issued a medical report, which has since been attached to his case file, stating that Manasra suffers from schizophrenia.

In March 2022, The Palestine-Global Mental Health Network launched a campaign calling for Manasra’s immediate release, which made ripples on social media under the hashtag #FreeAhmadManasra.

In a statement, the network said “Ahmad has been subjected to continuous punishment and abuse, multiple physical, psychological, and social torture, including deprivation from family connectivity, visits and communication with his parents and brothers, and recent solitary confinement.”

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