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Israel extends detention of Palestinian clown

Circus performer set to be held for another six months without trial or charge under administrative detention.

Israel has renewed the administrative detention of a Palestinian circus performer for another six months after arresting him without charge in December 2015.

Mohammad Abu Sakha, 23, teaches at the Palestinian Circus School in Birzeit, near Ramallah.

His case stirred global calls for his release after he was arrested on his way to work at the Zaatara checkpoint near Nablus and taken to Israel's Megiddo prison in the north. He was later transferred to Ketziot prison in the Negev, the country's south.

Israel's military court claims Abu Sakha carried out unspecified "illegal activities" with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a political party with an armed wing that is banned by Israel.

In January, an Israeli army spokesperson said Abu Sakha was being held "due to the danger he posed to the security of the region", noting the case was based on "confidential information".

All alleged evidence that authorities purport to hold against him has been withheld, making it impossible for Abu Sakha to build an effective case to defend himself or challenge his arrest.

"The arbitrary detention of Mohammad Abu Sakha is yet another shameful example of the Israeli authorities' abusive use of administrative detention. He has already spent more than six months behind bars without being charged or allowed to stand trial - he has been denied even the slightest semblance of justice," Philip Luther, director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at human rights group Amnesty International, said in a statement.

Abu Sakha made an appeal against his first detention order in March, but it was rejected.

The Palestinian Circus School, funded by a number of bodies including the European Commission, said there is no basis to the claims. The school has launched a global petition for his release.

Abu Sakha joined the school in 2007 as a student, only to become a performer and trainer in the circus by 2011. He specialises in working with children with learning difficulties.

Administrative detention orders allow Israeli authorities to detain individuals without charge or trial, indefinitely.

A military judge will review Abu Sakha's detention renewal order on Wednesday, June 15. The judge can either confirm the order, cancel it, or reduce the detention period. In the majority of cases, however, such hearings are merely used to confirm the orders.

Under international law, the use of administrative detention is permitted only in exceptional cases related to security. Israel, however, has detained thousands of Palestinians and for years without charge or trial.

There are more than 600 Palestinians held in Israeli prisons on administrative detention.

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