JERICHO, West Bank – A Palestinian court on Thursday extended the detention of a hunger-striking Palestinian-American activist who claims she was tortured in captivity.
Suha Jbara, 31, a U.S. citizen born in Panama, shuffled into the Jericho courtroom with her head down, appearing ashen and weak. Her father and son reached out to embrace her but were restrained by Palestinian authorities.
The court ordered that Jbara remain in custody 15 more days on suspicions she funded "illegal organizations" and "worked with the enemy." Palestinian authorities refused to elaborate on the accusations. Jbara insists the only organizations she supports are Islamic charities advocating for Palestinian prisoners in Israel.
When the judge announced her extended detention, her youngest son, Mohammed, erupted into sobs and her father shook his fist, wailing, "Shame on you! I swear this is not justice!" as security officials ushered him out of the courtroom.
Jbara started a hunger strike two weeks ago to protest what she says is unjust treatment by Palestinian authorities. She told her lawyer on Thursday that she will continue striking for her remaining days of detention in hopes of bringing attention to her plight.
She told the advocacy organization Amnesty International that after arresting her from her home in a midnight raid, Palestinian authorities tortured her and deprived her of water, sleep and medicine she needs for a heart condition. She said security officials threatened her with sexual violence and forced her to sign a document admitting to charges she says are false.
Her father, Badran Jbara, said Jbara lived for nearly a decade with her American husband in New Jersey, where she obtained U.S. citizenship and raised her three children. Now divorced, she lives with her family in the West Bank city of Turmas Aya, known for its large population of Palestinian-Americans.
"Every day my daughter Suha is dying," Jbara said. "These people are committing brutal crimes against humanity and against the Palestinian people."
Her lawyer, Mohannad Karajah, called the Palestinian authorities' accusations "baseless" and "politically motivated."
The New York-based watchdog Human Rights Watch released a report last month accusing both the Western-backed Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and the Islamic militant Hamas in Gaza of using "machineries of repression" to stifle criticism.
The investigation reported that that Palestinian security forces routinely use torture and arbitrary arrests to quash dissent by peaceful activists and political opponents.