Young Palestinian Deeply Disturbed by Interrogation
HEBRON, OCCUPIED WEST BANK
RIYAD Abu Assab was taken from his home here in an Israeli Army raid at midnight on Oct. 17 last year.
Eighteen days later, he was thrown out of the back of an Army jeep at a gas station in the nearby town of Dahariya, deranged and catatonic.
It is still not known what happened to Riyad, a 22-year-old Palestinian, during his detention. His case, to be highlighted in a forthcoming report by the Israeli human rights group Btselem, is still under investigation by Israeli military police four months later.
An Army spokesman refused to comment on the affair until the investigation is completed.
Riyad himself is still deeply disturbed. A slight man, hunched behind a chair cushion as he spoke in broken phrases to reporters last week, continuously stamping his feet and his hands shaking, he was unable to recount his experiences in jail.
Their effects, however, are clear.
"He is withdrawn socially and has no connection with reality.... He is unaware of the time and the place. Although he is able to tell his name, he is unable to tell his brother's name," according to a clinical psychologist who examined Riyad last week.
"The prognosis in such mental conditions is usually not good, especially when such conditions persist for over six months," said the report, provided by Riyad's lawyer.
Five months ago, Riyad was a very different man, according to his doctor, his family, and his friends. Working as a shop assistant in his grandfather's cosmetics store in Hebron he had married his girlfriend, Safa, just a month before his arrest.
"He was quite normal before," Safa says. "I wouldn't have married him if he wasn't. He was liked by everyone, very polite, and he only spoke sweet talk. He never said anything to offend anyone."
Riyad had no history of mental disorder, according to his doctor, Assad Abu Ghalyoun, nor had he ever engaged in political activities, according to his father, Radi Abu Assab.
"I told the soldiers [when they arrested Riyad] that he never made trouble, he was always at home," his father said. Riyad had never before been arrested.
Giving no reason for his detention, the Israeli soldiers took Riyad to Hebron jail, where officials confirmed to his father the next day that he was being held, but refused permission to see him.
"I went every day, and after a week they said Riyad had been moved to Dahariya [an Israeli Army detention camp 15 miles South of Hebron]. But in Dahariya they told me I could not ask about him there, I had to ask in the place where I live," Radi said.
Riyad was in sufficiently good mental state to sign for his belongings when he was admitted to Dahariya, and to write the regulation prison card to his parents telling them where he was.
Ten days later though, his father found him at the Dahariya gas station "something like a skeleton, looking like a wild animal, the first man on earth. For 20 minutes I tried to convince him to get into the car, but he refused. He wouldn't speak, and he didn't even recognize me. Three of us, his two uncles and I, could not control him."
Radi had been telephoned by an employee of the gas station, Khaled, who had seen Riyad arrive.
"An Army jeep stopped, an officer got out ... and told us to come and take a man who had just got out of prison and who would not get down," Khaled recalled.
"We found a man tied hand and foot. The soldiers untied him and pushed him out onto the ground. Then they gave us his belongings and left. It was clear the man was abnormal, he was barefoot, his hair was on end, and his clothes were all torn."
Dr. Abu Ghalyoun, who examined Riyad a few hours later, found him "in very, very bad condition. He was bewildered, uncommunicative, he suffered from behavior hallucinations, and he was rigid."
Abu Ghalyoun would not speculate on what had brought Riyad to such a state, and his experiences in Hebron Jail and Dahariya detention camp remain a mystery.
"A prison is a prison," Riyad's father says. "I cannot tell what they have done to him. You should ask his interrogators what they did to him."