Of paralysis and pain

July 18, 1993|By Doug Struck | Doug Struck,Jerusalem Bureau

JERUSALEM -- At the first interrogation session, the officer put a foot on Hassan Halawani's testicles and began twisting his collar to choke him. When the Palestinian replied with an insult, xTC two of the interrogators rammed his head into a concrete wall, he said.

The paralysis started then.

Before he was arrested by Israeli authorities, Mr. Halawani, 44, was a fit, black-belted karate instructor. Now he can move his left arm only by lifting it with his right. He walks slowly and painfully with a cane. There are odd clefts in his head, and his right side "feels like it is burning with acid."

The father of three spent 18 months in Israeli prisons, accused of subversion against Israeli authority.

His treatment at the hands of interrogators cannot be verified. It is typical of the accounts of other Palestinian prisoners. It is supported by his injuries.

For 57 days he was put in a small solitary cell and questioned, he said. Beatings were regular, he said.

Many days, he was tied to a tiny, foot-high sloping chair. His head was covered with a foul, excrement-stained hood. Once, he was put in "the coffin," a steel closet no bigger than its name.

At times, "I knew I would die," he said. With the hood on his head, "I couldn't breathe. I felt like I was in a different world, a world with no civilization."

At his release in November, Mr. Halawani went to a rehabilitation center for four months. He said doctors have told him some of his vertebrae are broken. There is some hope from an operation, but he has no money. At his karate center in East Jerusalem, he can now only watch.

"A man like me, my capital was my arms and my legs. I made my living with them," he said. "Now I must live by handouts."

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