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Visiting France

Mother of Franco-Palestinian prisoner lobbies for French support

media Sarkozy receives Palestinian President Mahmouod Abbas at the Elysée presidential … Reuters/Jacky Naegelen

A Franco-Palestinian woman whose son is serving a seven-year sentence in an Israeli prison has been in France in an unsuccessful attempt to meet the French foreign ministry. In 2005 an Israeli military court four Salah Hamouri, 26, guilty of plotting to assassinate a rabbi with members of a Palestinian group.

Hamouri’s mother, Danielle, insists her son is innocent.

“No concrete proof was given,” she told RFI in Paris. “He was sentenced to seven years for having just an intention.”

Dossier: Gaza 2009

As part of a sentence-reducing plea bargain, Hamouri pleaded guilty in 2008 to being part of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which was accused of planning to assassinate Rabbi Ovadia Yossef in 2005.

Danielle Hamouri says the difference between her son and other imprisoned Palestinians is that he is French, like Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit whom France has demanded be freed from captivity by a Palestinian group.

A sociology student at the University of Bethlehem at the time of his arrest, he was living with his family in East Jerusalem.

Residents of East Jerusalem do not have Israeli passports, so Hamouri’s only passport is French, which is why his mother has appealed to France for help.

The Salah Hamouri support committee said last week that French Foreign Minister Alain Juppé expressed interest in meeting Danielle Hamouri during her latest visit to France.

But, she says, the scheduling did not work out.

Instead, she received a letter that she says acknowledged, for the first time, that Salah Hamouri is being wrongly detained.

“It’s maybe the first time he’s saying something different,” she says. “For example he is saying in this letter that Salah is being arbitrarily detained because he didn’t do anything and there is no proof. This is the first time he’s saying it this way.”

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who has taken on the cause of other  French nationals imprisoned outside of France – most recently that of Florence Cassez, a Frenchwoman convicted of kidnapping in Mexico – has never received Hamouri's mother.

She recognises that the situation between her son and Cassez is very different.

“It’s not like being accused of kidnapping in Mexico. It’s different to be accused of political things in Palestine or Israel,” she said “The President doesn’t want to be implicated in these things.”

Sarkozy did write a letter to the Israeli Prime Minister in 2009 asking for clemency for Salah Hamouri - a request that was refused.

Danielle Hamouri says it makes sense to draw parallels with the Gilad Shalit case, but the treatment by France of the two cannot be more different.

“Shalit is like a national cause in France for the president,” she said. “He received his parents many times, he shows a lot of emotion when he’s talking about the soldier. He has never said the name of my son in public or in any declaration.”

“It is good that they are fighting for Shalit, he has to be home," she acknowledges. "But at the same time Shalit is not a civilian, he’s a soldier. Which makes a difference.”

Salah Hamouri is to be released in November, after serving his seven years. His mother hopes France can put pressure for him to be freed earlier.

Plus, she says, there are other prisoners as well.

“We hope that one day not just him but many prisoners can be freed. There is no way there can be a Palestinian state without first considering the question of the prisoners. This is an important issue.”

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