'Why is Palestinian child prisoner Ahmed Manasra in jail?' Thousands urge Israel to release him

'Why is Palestinian child prisoner Ahmed Manasra in jail?' Thousands urge Israel to release him
Thousands of people have taken to social media to call for the release of 20-year-old Ahmed Manasra, who was just 13 when he was arrested by Israel. Since then, he has been subjected to violence, torture, and solitary confinement.
4 min read
13 April, 2022
Ahmad Manasra was just 13 when he was arrested and 14 when he was convicted [Getty]

The plight of Palestinian child prisoner Ahmed Manasra resurfaced online as his court date nears, with thousands of social media users worldwide sharing his story and demanding his release.

Manasra, now 20, was arrested by Israeli forces in 2015 when he was 13 years old on suspicion that he was involved in a stabbing attack carried out by his cousin Hassan Khalid Manasra in occupied East Jerusalem.

At the time of his arrest, he was assaulted by Israeli security personnel, leaving him with a fractured skull.

His cousin was killed by Israeli forces after the stabbing attack, but Manasra was sentenced in 2016, initially to 12 years in prison.

This was subsequently reduced to 9.5 years and a fine of over $47,000 which his family struggled to raise.

Manasra denies all charges that he took part in any attack and was famously interrogated to the point of desperation when he began screaming: “I do not remember, I do not remember, have I gone mad? Get a doctor and let him open my skull to show how I do not remember.”

The interrogator subsequently told him to be quiet and tortured him with an electric bracelet for hours.

With his next court date due to take place on Wednesday, activists from across the world are advocating for Manasra's release.

A campaign titled #FreeAhmadManasra was launched by the Palestine Global Mental Health Network in conjunction with legal experts, children's rights activists and prisoners rights groups to raise awareness for his tragic case. 

“Ahmad Manasra was imprisoned in conditions unbefitting of a child and alongside him, truth, justice, and humanity, were foreclosed as well. We want to attest to the fact that Ahmad has been subject to continuous punishment and abuse, multiple physical, psychological, and social torture,” said the Palestine Global Mental Health Network in a statement.

Since his arrest, he has been subjected to verbal and physical abuse, torture, and extended periods of solitary confinement, which caused his physical and mental health to deteriorate, his lawyer Khaled Zabarka explained in a video.

Some prominent Palestinian figures such as Mohammed El-Kurd, who rose to fame last year for documenting the Israeli displacement of Palestinians in Sheikh Jarrah, changed their Twitter names to #FreeAhmedManasra.

A petition calling for his release by Tuesday reached nearly 150,000 signatures within a few days, and solidarity protests took place over the last week in Canada and the UK.

Ahmed's mother thanked her son's thousands of supporters on social media..

"Since the start of the campaign, I have been feeling a lot more optimistic that there is finally some movement and hope on his case. I've been wanting this much advocacy from the beginning", she said.

"Now I go into his room and I feel some hope, I feel happiness because I know he will finally be free."

Since 2000, Israel has arrested approximately 12,000 children of whom approximately 200 remain in prison today. A 2020 report from Save the Children consulted 470 former child prisoners (held in the last 10 years in Israeli custody) on the conditions of their detention.

According to the report, 81 percent suffered physical beatings, 88 percent did not receive adequate and timely healthcare and 52 percent were threatened with harm to their families with the vast majority experiencing other forms of abuse.