Arrest of Birzeit University Student Council President by Israeli Authorities
On 10 February 2000, Birzeit University's student council president Ala Zuheir Ibrahim, a third-year mechanical engineering student from Hebron, was arrested by the Israeli military authorities. Ala was on his way home from university when, at approximately 4:30 p.m., he was arrested at an impromptu checkpoint set up in Surda, a village located on the Birzeit- Ramallah road. It is unclear as of yet where Ala is being detained or of charges against him if any. The village of Surda was designated Area 'B' under the Oslo Accords, meaning joint Palestinian and Israeli control, with ultimate security control held by the Israeli military authorities.
In addition, on 11 February 2000, at approximately 4 a.m., two students residing in Beit Liqya, Ramallah were arrested from their homes. Khaldoun Mohammad Najib Mafargeh, a first year engineering student, and Nimer Ribhi Musa, a third year science student, are currently being held at the Bet El detention center. This brings the total of students already arrested by the Israeli authorities since the beginning of the year 2000 to six.
Although the number of arrests of Birzeit students has decreased minimally in the past two years, a climate of fear still exists amongst students traveling to and from the university. In 1998, 56 students were arrested by the Israeli military authorities, while in 1999, a total of 41 Birzeit University students were arrested, including last year's student council president, Iyad Habib Mohammad. Iyad, a 24-year-old electrical engineering student from Bethlehem, was arrested on 26 January 1999 on his way home from university and was sentenced to 32 months imprisonment on 15 November 1999 for his political affiliations. There are currently 33 Birzeit University students in Israeli prisons.
The majority of students arrested in the past year have been those affiliated with the Islamic bloc on campus. Many of the students detained under this charge have been sentenced to long prison terms, ranging from anywhere between 17 months to 40 months. One of the longest sentences ever passed for political affiliation was issued to Subhi Samir Al Shawa, a twenty-year-old Birzeit University science student from Al Bireh. Subhi was arrested on 6 April 1999 at a checkpoint near the Bet El settlement and charged on 27 December 1999 to 40 months imprisonment for political affiliation and being a member of the Islamic bloc on campus. The Human Rights Action Project lawyer, Elia Theodory, stated that "This is one of the longest sentences I have ever seen passed in Israeli military courts for ones' political affiliations. The Israeli authorities are unjustly targeting students who are members of Islamic student groups on West Bank campuses. Many of the charges that are listed on these students' charge sheets are for student activities on campus. A student, just for being a member of the Islamic bloc, can be charged with up to two years in prison. This is clearly a violation of their freedom of expression and beliefs. All political factions are still deemed illegal in the West Bank by Israeli military orders. These students are political prisoners." Subhi Al-Shawa's sentence is currently set to be appealed on 21 February 2000.