SAR’s Academic Freedom Monitoring Project investigates and reports attacks on higher education with the aim of raising awareness, generating advocacy, and increasing protection for scholars, students, and academic communities. Learn more.

Date of Incident: October 23, 2023

Attack Types: Imprisonment

Institution(s):Al Quds University

Region & Country:Western Asia | Palestine (OPT)

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On October 23, 2023, Israeli forces arrested Imad Barghouti, a prominent astrophysicist and professor of physics at Al-Quds University, for unknown reasons.

This incident occurred against the backdrop of a surprise Hamas attack on Israel on October 7 that left over 1,200 Israelis and foreign nationals dead and more than 200 abducted, and the subsequent Israeli military bombardment of the Gaza Strip which, as of the beginning of December, has reportedly killed more than 15,000 Palestinians.

Barghouti’s family reported Israeli forces surrounded their house and threatened to demolish it if he didn’t turn himself over. His family has not been able to speak with him. Barghouti is being held without charge in the Ofer Prison in the West Bank under administrative detention.

Israeli authorities previously arrested Barghouti in July 2020 at an Israeli checkpoint near the village of Nabi Saleh in the West Bank. He was held in jail for several weeks under administrative detention on account of his social media activity, but was never convicted. On September 2, a court granted Barghouthi bail; however, this decision was immediately followed by an order from Israeli military authorities to put him under administrative detention (see report), under which he was held until May 31, 2021.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the arbitrary detention of a scholar by state military authorities. Arbitrary arrests and imprisonments without particularized and reasonable suspicion may violate recognized human rights standards and international humanitarian law. State authorities have an obligation to refrain from restricting or retaliating against expressive activity, so long as it is nonviolent and responsible. In addition to the harm to the immediate victim, arrests in connection with scholars’ nonviolent expressive activity undermine academic freedom and democratic society generally.