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Palestinian-Italian student, held by Israel for a month, faces court hearing

An Italian-Palestinian student detained by Israel for over a month is to face another remand hearing Sunday despite reportedly not having been granted access to a lawyer.

Khaled El Qaisi, 27, has been detained by Israel without charge since August 31, when he was arrested while crossing from the West Bank to Jordan after a family vacation in his home city of Bethlehem.

El Qaisi could be charged or freed by the court, though his Italian lawyer has previously said he fears his client may be put in administrative detention, a controversial measure enabling imprisonment without charges virtually indefinitely.

The case has been brought to the attention of the Italian parliament and thousands have protested in the streets of Rome for his release, including in demonstrations held on Saturday.

An online petition calling for his release has garnered over 30,000 signatures.

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El Qaisi’s remand has already been extended several times, in closed-door hearings.

El Qaisi, who was born in the West Bank and holds Italian citizenship, has been subject to daily interrogations in a prison near Tel Aviv, his Italian lawyer, Flavio Rossi Albertini, said last month.

Demonstration For The Release Of Khaled El Qaisi
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— Stefano Montesi (@stefanomontesi) September 28, 2023

Albertini at the time called on Italy to intervene, saying his client was being held in violation of his legal rights.

“A whole series of guarantees in the Italian system that we all know and which we appeal to when we are involved with the justice system, all of this is denied in Israel,” Albertini told a press conference in Italy’s lower house of parliament, attended by two opposition party deputies.

“How can the Italian government not take a position?” he said.

A spokesman for Amnesty International Italy, Riccardo Noury, said Israel did not care that El Qaisi was also an Italian citizen.

“Khaled is Palestinian, so he is automatically suspect,” he said during the same press conference.

El Qaisi’s mother is Italian and his father Palestinian, the Middle East Eye reported last month. He was raised in Bethlehem and studied at Sapienza University in Rome, where he helped found the Palestinian Documentation Centre, which promotes Palestinian history and culture.

According to the report, El Qaisi’s vacation included a registering his marriage to an Italian woman and the birth of their four-year-old son with the Palestinian civil registry as well as a visit to Jordan.

Passengers arrive on the Jordanian side of the Allenby Bridge crossing between the West Bank and Jordan on July 19, 2022. (Khalil Mazraawi/AFP)

However, as the family tried to use the Allenby Bridge crossing from the West Bank into Jordan he was pulled aside and their luggage and mobile phones taken by Israeli officials, the report said.

El Quaisi was led away in handcuffs, his wife, Francesca Antinucci, told the outlet, and she herself was also interrogated before finally being released and sent on her way with her son. According to Antinucci, she was told to leave without her mobile phone or any money, as they had been seized.

“I asked the officers how we could continue the journey, since they had seized everything. They replied that it was not their problem,” she recalled.

She was eventually able to contact the Italian embassy in Jordan and three days later returned to Italy.

According to the report, after El Qaisi’s arrest, his brother and two cousins were arrested in Bethlehem, though his sibling was later released.

The Italian consul in Tel Aviv has visited Al Qaisi at least twice and informed Antinucci, the lawyer, that he appeared to be in good health.