Israel to release hunger-striking Jordanian national from admin detention

Heba Al-Labadi has been on hunger strike for 41 days to protest her detention without indictment or trial. She was arrested by Israel while traveling to a wedding in Jenin.

Heba al-Labadi, who has been in Israeli administrative detention since August. (Courtesy)
Heba al-Labadi, who has been in Israeli administrative detention since August. (Courtesy)

Heba al-Labadi, a Jordanian citizen of Palestinian descent, who has been on hunger strike for the past 41 days, will reportedly be released from Israeli administrative detention this week.

Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi tweeted that his country had reached an agreement with Israel for the release of Al-Labadi as well as of Abdul Rahman Miri, another Jordanian citizen in administrative detention. Prime Minister Netanyahu confirmed the deal on Monday evening.

The decision comes on the heels of a global campaign by Jordanian, Palestinian, and Israeli activists to free al-Labadi, 24, who was detained by Israeli forces on August 20th at the Allenby Bridge crossing while traveling with her mother to a wedding in the West Bank. Her arrest was reportedly related to meetings she allegedly had with Hezbollah affiliates during a visit to Beirut, where she was visiting her sister.

Israel refused to indict Al-Labadi. Instead they put her in administrative detention, a practice Israel uses to detain Palestinians (and occasionally some Jews) without charge or trial — indefinitely. Administrative detention orders are reviewed every six months, but the detainees are not told of what crimes they are being accused or shown the evidence against them. Al-Labadi repeatedly rejected the accusations against her, and over the past few weeks, was transferred several times from Jalma Prison to the Bnei Zion Hospital in Haifa for medical treatment.

“The release of administrative detainees is unprecedented,” said Raslan Mahajne, Al-Labadi’s attorney. “The legal work, the public pressure, and the fact that the Jordanians recalled their ambassador [from Israel] to Amman helped win her release. And of course, Hiba’s resilience, as she continued her hunger strike despite the difficult conditions. She’s a hero. It’s not easy to hold on for more than 70 days in detention and interrogations, and more than 40 days on hunger strike.”

Mahjana said he visited Al-Labadi on Sunday and updated her on the protest campaign and the demonstrations for her release in Jordan, the West Bank, and Israel. “Despite trying to isolate her, I updated her about what is happening on the outside, in Ofer Military Court, and outside Bnei Zion Hospital in Haifa where she was hospitalized. She was very encouraged by all the solidarity.” According to Mahjana, Al-Labadi will require and medical treatment and monitoring.

Activists from Israel demonstrate in solidarity with Jordanian-Palestinian prisoner Hiba al-Labadi outside Ofer Military Court in the West Bank, October 28, 2019. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)
Activists from Israel demonstrate in solidarity with Jordanian-Palestinian prisoner Hiba al-Labadi outside Ofer Military Court in the West Bank, October 28, 2019. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Activists launched a campaign calling for the Al-Labadi’s release last weekend. They held protests in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, and launched an internet campaign that included a photo of al-Labadi with the caption “Have you heard of me?” in Arabic and Hebrew, in order to draw attention to her administrative detention. On Sunday, a number of Israeli activists launched a symbolic hunger strike of 40 hours, to mark the 40 days that Al-Labadi had been refusing food to protest her detention without trial.