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After being barred from travelling abroad for 13 years: A Palestinian in his 50’s was permitted to take part in the Hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia

In 2004, the names of a Palestinian husband and wife, residents of Hebron, came up in the raffle run by the Saudi Arabian government for granting permits for participation in the Hajj pilgrimage. But when the couple attempted to leave for Jordan through the Allenby Bridge border crossing, from where they intended to continue to Mecca, the husband was told that Israeli security forces were preventing his overseas travel.

From that point and until 2017, HaMoked submitted seven appeals to the military against the security preclusion against the man, preventing his overseas travel, and petitioned the High Court of Justice (HCJ) on his behalf four times. Time after time, the military rejected the appeals, and presented classified information to the Court during the hearings on the petitions, allegedly proving the danger stemming from the man’s overseas travel. The man himself was provided with only vague and general justifications for the preclusion, thus blocking his ability to refute them.

In 2017, as part of HaMoked’s fourth petition on the matter, the military announced it maintained the security preclusion against the man, but would positively consider its removal if there was no up-to-date intelligence on the man a year later. As such, the man agreed to withdraw the petition, in the hopes he would finally be permitted to take part in the Hajj pilgrimage the following year.

But the military’s promises were proven empty. On May 30, 2018, the military rejected an additional appeal submitted by HaMoked against the security preclusion against the man’s overseas travel, justifying the rejection vaguely through “involvement in terror funds”. The military did not address its commitment to positively consider the request, and did not mention whether any new intelligence had come up since the withdrawal of the previous appeal.

As such, HaMoked was forced to turn to the courts for the fifth time, and petitioned the HCJ on July 26, 2018, demanding that the man be permitted to take part in the pilgrimage to Mecca leaving on August 6, 2018. In the petition, HaMoked claimed that the state’s conduct seriously harms the man’s right to freedom of movement, the curtailment of which leads to harm to additional rights, and in particular the right to freedom of religion. HaMoked further claimed that the military’s conduct harms the basic principle of good administration, because the military had not conducted a hearing before, or even after, making the decision to prevent the man’s overseas travels. Even if such a hearing had taken place, HaMoked claimed, the man’s right to contest the prevention of his overseas travels would not have been realized, due to the military’s refusal to provide him with the information at the basis of the preclusion.

On July 30, 2018, the military submitted a response to the petition, stating that the man would be permitted to travel abroad if he agreed to sign a vague pledge to “avoid contact with terror actors” during his travel, and to submit a 10,000 NIS deposit. The man accepted these conditions, and on August 2, 2018, the military announced the removal of the preclusion against him.

Thus, following a 13-year battle, the couple was permitted to travel abroad and realize their right to freedom of religion.

It is worth noting that this case is one of hundreds occurring every year, as part of which security forces register “security preclusions” against Palestinian residents of the occupied territories, without conducting a hearing or notifying people that they have been barred from traveling abroad.

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