JERUSALEM – It was a crime that caused Jerusalem to convulse.
On an autumn day seven years ago, 13-year-old Palestinian boy Ahmad Manasra and his 15-year-old cousin ripped bodies in the streets of a Jewish settlement east of Jerusalem, armed with knives. His cousin, Hassan, fatally stabbed a 13-year-old Israeli boy leaving a candy store and stabbed another Israeli man. He was shot dead by the police. Ahmad was run over by a car, beaten and taunted by Israeli passers-by.
A graphic video of Ahmad lying on the street, bleeding from his head while Israelis mock him, has garnered millions of views. The case became a lightning rod for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, prompting Israeli Jews to view Ahmad as a terrorist who sought to kill Jews his age and outraged Palestinians who considered him. He was the victim of a vicious mob and was unfairly tried, punished for a crime his dead cousin committed.
At the time, Ahmad’s lawyers argued that he sought to terrify the Jews because of Israel’s policies towards Gaza, not kill them. The Israeli boy who was attacked was in a coma for a week but has since recovered.
In the past six years since Ahmad was found guilty of attempted murder and sentenced to nine and a half years in prison, another chapter of his ordeal has opened. Doctors say Ahmad, 20 years old, developed schizophrenia in solitary confinement and tried to harm himself and others. As of Thursday, Ahmad had spent 354 days in isolation.
Ahmad told his lawyer that he drank bleach on Tuesday. Just hours later, Israel’s Justice Minister asked the Supreme Court to dismiss an appeal for Ahmad’s early release, claiming that even if ordinary prisoners would be eligible for release upon completion Two-thirds of the sentence, Ahmad – a “terrorist” criminal – has given the Supreme Court to decide whether to hear his case in the coming days.
Ahmad’s lawyers say it is the first time an amnesty committee has retroactively applied a 2018 anti-terrorism law banning early release for security cases. Human rights groups have criticized the act for creating two separate legal norms that apply to Israeli and Palestinian convicts.
Budour Hassan, a researcher with Amnesty International, said: “Rape offenders are eligible for early release, but Ahmad was arrested at the age of 13 with a prison sentence that jeopardizes his integrity. My network does not.
Typically in Israel, children under the age of 16 are sent to juvenile detention centers, where they receive education and counseling in better conditions than in regular prisons. The judicial officials then decide whether to transfer them. Ahmad was sent to a public prison after two years, where his mental health deteriorated.
For Ahmad’s family and supporters, his transformation from a birdwatcher and soccer lover to a mentally ill senior security prisoner with increasingly desperate tendencies is a wake-up call. Dark newspaper about the violence of the Mideast conflict and its impact on the younger generation.
“When he was 13 and he needed his mother the most, he was sent to prison,” his mother, Maysoon Manasra, said from their home in Beit Hanina, east of Jerusalem. It’s just across the highway from the settlement of Pisgat Ze’ev, where surveillance footage shows knife-wielding boys chasing a man across the street. “Prison only brings pain.”
A human rights group, International Organization for Children-Palestinian, estimates that 700 Palestinians under the age of 18 are arrested each year in the occupied West Bank, and hundreds more in east Jerusalem. Between 2016 and 2021, the group documented 155 cases of prolonged solitary confinement in the West Bank, which Israel captured during the 1967 Mideast war.
Teenagers are often kept in a 1 x 1.5 meter (3 x 5 foot) cell filled with endless light, the group said. The only person in contact with the interrogator. Ayed Abu Eqtaish, the group’s accountability program manager, said they returned to their families with deep scars.
“We learn from their parents that they become a different person,” he said.
According to Ahmad’s family and lawyers, he was locked in a small cell for 23 hours a day. He struggles with paranoia and delusions that keep him from sleeping. Authorities first transferred him to quarantine in November 2021, after an altercation with another inmate. He became so terrified of his hallucinations that he was sent to the mental institution of Ramla prison in central Israel every few months. Doctors injected him to stabilize before sending him back to solitary confinement, his family said.
Israel’s prison authority said Ahmad was “held in a surveillance cell and not in solitary confinement” due to “his mental state”. It does not answer questions about the difference between solitary confinement and surveillance cells.
“His condition is stable and there is (no) reason for further hospitalization,” it said.
His father, Saleh Manasra, described the condition as very painful.
“He didn’t talk to anyone but the worms on the floor of his cell,” he said. “He imagined someone would kill him. He imagines someone is chasing him.”
Manasra said prison authorities often refused his requests to visit Ahmad. Through the plexiglass every few months, Manasra can tell his son that “it’s getting worse and worse,” he said.
Ahmad’s mental suffering began shortly after his arrest. Leaked video from his interrogation at the age of 13 shows him crying and banging his head in frustration as Israeli interrogators questioned him about the attack.
At the time of Ahmad’s arrest, children under the age of 14 could not be held criminally responsible under Israeli law. The trial dragged on. Ahmad was sentenced after his 14th birthday. Two years later, lawmakers invoked Ahmad’s case when they passed legislation that would allow 12-year-olds to be jailed for terrorism charges.
“They are treated like adult security prisoners,” said Naji Abbas, case manager at the Israeli nonprofit Doctors for Human Rights.
After repeated requests, Israeli prison authorities allowed a doctor from the nonprofit to diagnose Ahmad, then 18, considering he and his family had no prior history of mental illness. At that time, psychiatrist Noa Bar Haim in Jerusalem claimed that Ahmad suffered from schizophrenia that caused psychological trauma in prison.
“His continued detention will inevitably worsen his condition and cause permanent disability,” she warned, recommending immediate release and psychiatric care. positive god.
Instead, he was put in isolation. Over the past two years, his lawyer Khaled Zabarqa said Ahmad tried to view his wrist with any sharp edge he could find in his cell.
Although his case attracted special attention and it caused outrage, his parents insisted that growing up, Ahmad did not understand the conflict that dictated his life.
“They called him a terrorist. I don’t think he even knew what he was doing or what it meant,” Maysoon said.