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Palestinian Authority: Further information on death penalty / torture / legal concern: Fawzi Muhammad Mahmud Sawalha

, Index number: MDE 21/013/1997

The death sentence of Fawzi Sawalha was commuted to life imprisonment by President Yasser Arafat on 4 October 1997.

EXTERNAL AI Index: MDE 21/13/97
17 November 1997
Further information on UA 271/97 (MDE 21/06/97, 13 August 1997) - Death Penalty
/ Torture / Legal Concern
PALESTINIAN AUTHORITYFawzi Muhammad Mahmud Sawalha
The death sentence imposed on Fawzi Sawalha was commuted to life imprisonment
by President Yasser Arafat on 4 October 1997. The commutation came after an
appeal for cassation was turned down by the military court of cassation.
Fawzi Sawalha was arrested on 29 June, accused of being the leader of a masked
gang that “terrorized, abducted and ill-treated local civilians”, reportedly
under orders from the Israeli Shin Bet (intelligence service). He was
subsequently convicted on charges which included “treason and collaboration”
and on 12 August was sentenced to death by the military court in Nablus (West
Bank). The three other men tried with him, Khaldun Sami ‘Abd al-Salam
‘Uthamneh, Taher Ahmad Sharif Jamlan and Naser Rashid Hamadneh received prison
terms of varying lengths.
No inquiry has been held into allegations, however, that all four defendants
were forced to confess to the crimes under torture (they were allegedly subject
to hammer blows to the head, stomach and knees). Their convictions rested
solely on these confessions, which they later denied. Additionally, none of
the 14 witnesses was able to identify the defendants as their attackers had
been masked.
The lawyer of Fawzi Sawalha, Attorney ‘Abd al-Karim Hammad, has submitted a
petition for a retrial on account of the unfairness of the previous trial and
because further evidence has come to light.
FURTHER RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send faxes/express/airmail letters in
English or in your own language:
- welcoming the commutation of the death sentence on Fawzi Sawalha;
- expressing concern that the defendants appear to have been sentenced solely
on the basis of confessions extracted after torture and asking for a retrial,
in accordance with international human rights standards, for all four
defendants;
- demanding an enquiry into the allegations of torture made by the defendants.
APPEALS TO:
President Yasser Arafat
Palestinian Authority
Al-Muntada
Gaza, Palestinian Authority
Faxes: + 972 7 822365 (ask to send a fax)
Salutation: Dear President Arafat
Mr Freih Abu Meddein
Minister of Justice
Ministry of Justice
Abu Khadra Building
Omar al-Mukhtar Street
Gaza, Palestinian Authority
Faxes: + 972 7 822236
2
Salutation: Dear Minister
President of the Military Court
Gaza
Palestinian Authority
Faxes: + 972 7 865 700 [ask for fax or press start after message]
Salutation: Dear President of the Military Court
COPIES TO:
Palestinian Independent Commission for Citizens’ Rights (PICCR)
Radio Street
Mukhmas Building
6th Floor
Ramallah, Palestinian Authority
Faxes: + 972 2 998 6958 / 998 7536
and to diplomatic representatives of the Palestinian Authority accredited to
your country.
PLEASE SEND APPEALS IMMEDIATELY. Check with the International Secretariat,
or your section office, if sending appeals after 30 December 1997.

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