See all those languages up there? We translate Global Voices stories to make the world's citizen media available to everyone.

Learn more about Lingua Translation  »

Sudanese Refugee Detained for Owning a Bicycle in Israel

Darfuri asylum-seeker and actor, Babaker (Babi) Ibrahim was arrested by Israeli police on July 18, 2013 for not having a receipt for his bicycle, which was presumed to be stolen.

Babi, a well-known figure in the Sudanese community in Israel, is a member of a refugee troupe that recently staged a satirical play about the mistreatment of refugees in Israel, One Strong Black. Babi's arrest and indefinite detention without trial sparked outrage and an online and offline campaign to release him and other refugees in his situation.

In September 2012, the Israeli Ministry of Interior implemented a new regulation that allows the indefinite arrest and detainment, without trial, of asylum-seekers suspected of crimes, even if those suspicions are unsubstantiated and would have not led to a conviction in court. In July 2013, the regulation, The Procedure for Handling Infiltrators [the term used by the State of Israel to vilify asylum-seekers] Involved in Criminal Proceedings, was expanded to include refugees suspected of even misdemeanors. Over 500 asylum seekers have been detained under the Criminal Procedure and sent to the internment camps for refugees in the Negev desert until their possible deportation from Israel.

On July 20, dozens protested in front of the residence of Attorney General, Adv. Yehuda Weinstein, who approved the regulation:

The Hotline for Migrant Workers, an NGO advocating for the rights of refugees, migrants and human trafficking victims in Israel, provided an update about Babi's current legal situation [heb]:

לאחר שעתירת הביאס קורפוס שלנו נדחתה על ידי בג”ץ, אתמול הגשנו עתירה בשם באבי… עתירתנו דורשת את שחרורו של באבי וגם תוקפת את הנוהל שמכוחו הוא עצור בטענה שאינו חוקתי…
אנו נמשיך להאבק למען שחרורו של באבי ושל כל הפליטים הכלואים בישראל ללא משפט. לא ייתכן שיתקיימו בישראל שתי מערכות משפט נפרדות: אחת לפליטים ואחרת לכל היתר. לא ייתכן שפליטים ייזרקו למעצר עולם ללא ראיות, ללא משפט הוגן, ללא יכולת להתגונן ומבלי שהמשטרה תצטרך להוכיח שהם אשמים בדבר. לא ייתכן שבמדינה דמוקרטית יתקיים נוהל שמשמעותו הנחה מראש שכל רכוש שנמצא בידיהם של בני אדם בעלי צבע עור מסוים הוא גנוב.

After our habeas corpus petition was rejected by the High Court of Justice, yesterday we filed another petition on behalf of Babi… Our petition demands Babi's release and the abrogation of the regulations under which he has been arrested, claiming that the regulation is unconstitutional… We will keep fighting for Babi's release and the freedom of all refugees detained in Israel without trial. The existence of two separate legal systems in Israel: one for refugees and one for everyone else cannot stand. It is outrageous that refugees are sent to life in prison without evidence, without a fair trial, without the opportunity to defend themselves and without the police having to prove that they are guilty of anything. A regulation that it predicated on the assumption that all property possessed by people of a certain skin color is in fact stolen cannot exist in a democratic country.

Advocates Yonatan Berman and Oded Feller wrote on their blog Laissez Passer about the absurdity of detaining people for owning property:

הבלוג פותח בפני קוראיו את פינת הרולטה – נחשו מה יהיה הצעד הבא. ההימור שלנו – מבקשי מקלט שלא יוכלו להציג קבלות המוכיחות כי רכשו את הבגדים שלגופם ייעצרו. כך נבטיח כי כל מבקשי המקלט יסתובבו בעירום. או שאולי, בעצם, כך נבטיח כי כל מבקשי המקלט שיסתובבו לבושים ייעצרו בגין עבירת גניבה, וכל מבקשי המקלט שיסתובבו בעירום ייעצרו בגין התערטלות במקום ציבורי.

The blog opens the roulette section before its readers – guess what will be the next move [by the government]. Our guess – asylum seekers who won't be able to present receipts proving that they've purchased the clothes on their back will be detainees. Thus we will ensure that all asylum-seekers will walk around naked. Or maybe, actually, this way we will ensure that all clothed refugees will be detained for stealing, while all the asylum-seekers who walk around naked will be detained for indecent exposure.

Prominent leftist blogger Yossi Gurvitz wrote on his blog Friends of George:

כמעט 160 שנים אחרי דרד סקוט, כמעט 150 שנים אחרי שהתיקון ה-13 שם קץ לעבדות, מאשר וינשטיין בחתימתו שיש קבוצה שלמה של בני אדם – לגמרי במקרה, כמובן, צבע עורם שחור – שהם, אם לא סחורות ממש, פחותים מבני אדם. די בעלילה עליהם (למשל, מצד נוכל בן העם הנבחר שלא רוצה לשלם להם את משכורותיהם) כדי להשליך אותם לבור משפטי שממנו אין כמעט דרך לצאת. לאברהים יש מזל נדיר: הוא דמות מוכרת. יש לו לא מעט חברים. כמאה מהם יצאו במוצ”ש הביל של יולי להפגין למענו מול ביתו של וינשטיין. לרוב הפליטים אין מזל כזה. אין מי שיכיר אותם, אין מי שיגיש בשמם עתירות הביאס קורפוס. הם נאלמים, ונעלמים אל הבור שחפר עבורם וינשטיין. בציבוריות הישראלית, המקבילה של החלטת דרד סקוט של וינשטיין עברה ללא כל רעש; יש בה יותר מדי תואמי יאנסי, ומעטים עדיין מעיזים לומר ש”אתם טועים בנו, לא נעשה זאת.”

Almost 160 years after Dred Scott v. Sandford, almost 150 years after the 13th Amendment ended slavery [in the U.S.], Weinstein approved with his signature that there is an entire group of people – incidentally, of course – their skin color is black – that they are, if not property per se, are less than human. Libelous claims (for example, from a swindler of The Chosen People who does not want to pay them their salaries [refugees have been threatened with this by employers - E.T.] are enough to dump them into a legal hole from which it is almost impossible go get out. Ibrahim is very lucky: he is a known figure. He has quite a few friends. About one hundred of them went out on a hot July Saturday night to protest for him in front of Weinstein's home. Most refugees are not that lucky. There is no one who knows them, there is no one of file a habeas corpus for them. They are silenced and disappeared into the hole Weinstein dug for them. The Israeli public did not react to Weinstein's decision that parallels the Dred Scott ruling; there are too many twins of William Yancey [southern Democratic congressman, leading proponent of slavery] and few still dare to say “you mistake us. We will not do it!” [response by a northern Democrat to Yancey's demand that the Democratic Party's platform for the 1860 election include pro-slavery statements]

The Facebook page freeBabi was launched, quickly gaining hundreds of “likes”. The page asked users to submit photos and videos of themselves asking for Babi's release. Many sent in their photos, including famous Israeli actors and musicians.

Famous Israeli singer-songwriter Alma Zohar posted a photo of herself with a sign reading: “Free Babi! Keeping innocents in jail costs you and me a lot of money!”
alma

The producers and directors of the play One Strong Black visited Babi in Giv'on Prison on July 23 and informed him about the ongoing campaign to release him. Babi is set to be transferred to the Sahaornim internment camp on July 24.

Giv'on

The campaign received attention in Turkey, Tunisia and Greece as well. Simge and Vulkan from Izmir, Turkey, took this photo of themselves.
Simga

John Brown created this meme using the image of Attorney General Weinstein:

"I don't always approve to lock up innocent people for life But when I do, they're always black"

“I don't always approve to lock up innocent people for life
But when I do, they're always black”

UPDATE: Following the online and offline campaign, Babi has been released from the Saharonim internment camp on the night of July 24, 2013. The procedure that made his indefinite detention without trial is still on the books and is being applied to refugees.

Receive great stories from around the world directly in your inbox.

Sign up to receive the best of Global Voices
* = required field
Email Frequency



No thanks, show me the site