Back in February an Australian was arrested in the West Bank and roughed up by Israeli authorities.
The following letter has been sent to Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade by Stop the War Coalition:
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
March X, 2010
We are writing to request that Australian diplomatic authorities in Israel demand that Bridget Chappell, wrongly arrested on charges of overstaying her visa, be allowed to continue her work in the West Bank.
We understand that she and a Spanish colleague were arrested in a dramatic pre-dawn raid on her office in Ramallah, Palestine, and handed over to the immigration police on the basis. Her crime? Visa irregularities, apparently.
In fact, Ms Chappell was in possession of a notification confirming an appointment with the visa authorities, which had been cancelled once and postponed once by them, and then rescheduled for March 2. It had worked like a visa at checkpoints until then.
Not only were the two young women treated as if they were terror suspects, they were denied access to lawyers or a phone and told to sign documents or face six months in prison.
Ms Chappell and Ms Marti were released from Givon, a deportation prison in Ramallah, after the Israeli Supreme Court declared their arrest illegal on February 9.
Ms Chappell’s lawyers are appealing both the bail conditions which prevent her from returning to her work in the West Bank and deportation orders in the District Court in Jerusalem.
We are concerned that Australian consular officials are not pressing her case with the Israeli authorities.
Given that Ms Chappell’s charges were thrown out of court, added to the fact that there is evidence that she had made every reasonable effort to extend her visa, preventing her from returning to the West Bank would seem to be a crude political excercise.
Ms Chappell was not participating in “illegal riots”, as claimed by the arresting officials. She was certainly not involved in the dirty business of scamming passports to assassinate political leaders – as agents of the Israeli state have been recently caught out doing.
Ms Chappell’s “crime” is to highlight the injustices of Israel’s criminal occupation of the West Bank. For that the Israeli government wants to deport her. This has serious ramifications for organisations like the International Solidarity Movement and other such solidarity organisations.
We would like to know what Australian consular officials are doing to assist Ms Chappell. She should be allowed to return to the West Bank; she should not be deported.