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“I did nothing to deserve this”

Letter from Austrian prison by Abu Habel, Palestinian sentenced for life imprisonment based on a phony political trial

20. November 2019
In writing these words, I have dug up a grave in my prison cell, and have cut off all communication with life itself -- a man who has spent his entire youth in Israeli dungeons.


Graz Karlau, October 19, 2019

So, I communicate to you, all free human beings:

I am the prisoner Abdel Karim Mohammed Abu Habel from the Gaza strip in Palestine. My family had to flee from Palestine in the Autumn of 1948. On the morning of black Sunday 20/05/1990 I was born, at the same time as the blood of our Palestinian people was being shed by the Israeli Zionist Forces.

I was a young boy, like any other, playing with boys my age, despite the occupation, the killing and the blood; these things that were never bad before the occupation. On 20/07/2000, I was shot in the joint of my left foot by the IOF; I was nine years old, and I still suffer from that injury, to this day.

A few years passed, after which we were taken by surprise from an offensive attack by the IOF on 12/07/2004. Like other children, I threw stones at the military vehicles attacking, but I was captured by the IOF, and they incarcerated me in Camp 16 in the North of Gaza. These soldiers attacked me, and threw me on the floor. My feet were heavily bruised because of the hitting and throwing. They made me sit on a hot plate inside a bulldozer for 4 hours. They also released their vicious dogs on me to frighten me further. I was subjected to torture, feeling imminent death. At one time, they put a white piece of cloth over my eyes, and announced that they were about to shoot me dead. They then took me to another room and fired 3 or 4 live shots around my feet.

After 2 days with these soldiers, I was transferred to Ashkalon Centre, in the south of occupied Palestine. Throughout the long trip, they never ceased to hit me on my face and my body all the while swearing at me. These oppressive occupiers inflicted on me all sorts of psychological as well as physical torture in their ‘investigating centers’; I was prevented from contacting my mother and father. They threatened to summon them to the prison, to force me to confess to charges written in a language I do not understand, all the while, insulting my parents non stop.

One example of torture at Ashkalon, consisted of first hitting me and throwing me on the floor, then sitting me on a chair, with my hands tied behind my back with a steel chain, and my feet tied in another 2 steel chains, and my God, the amount of different hands that would lash out and hit me from all directions! After 5 hours, I tried to free my right hand, and found my left one paralyzed from the beatings, and since that time, the finger on my left hand is still paralyzed.

They were forcing me agree to confess to their accusation of me throwing explosives as well as stones! I was 13 years old, and knew nothing about such things.

After 30 nights throughout which I saw neither daylight nor night stars, the IOF transferred me from the interrogation center to Hasharon prison, and from there to a military court in a settlement called Erez.

After one year of court hearings, on 23/08/2005, a military court condemned me to 9 years in prison, thus throwing my entire childhood behind steel bars.

A new life of misery thus began. During the 9 years in prison I was allowed to see my parents THREE TIMES ONLY.

At the time, I was tossed between no less than 11 prisons, from Hasharon in the east to Nafha in the south.

On 11/07/2013, I was released from Beir Sabeh in southern Israel, and made my way over to my parents, a changed man, from head to toe.

This was like a rebirth for me, after 9 whole years in the occupation dungeons.

The trauma from memories of my years in jail had never left me. I had to be taken to a behavioural therapist, due to the stress and trauma; up until now, I suffer from terrible nightmares and constantly wake up screaming at night. I preferred to sit alone and became very solitary. Whenever I entered an empty room, I felt I was forced into solitary confinement.

Four months later, I decided to marry my cousin Saeda Hassan Abu Habel.

Exactly one year after my release from prison, somebody from the IOF called me to tell me that my case was still open, that “my account with Israel” was not closed. What had I been doing all this time in jail?

The very next day, my house was targeted and bombed, with my wife, who was pregnant at the time in it. God was merciful, they survived though they could so easily have been killed.

After this, another man from the IOF called me again, and once more, began to threaten that he was going to kill me.

I felt I then had no choice but to leave Gaza and filed for human and political asylum in Austria on 24/03/2016, leaving behind me the most loving time I ever experienced with my family, after the horrors of prison.

On 30/03/2016 I was visited by the Austrian security forces, who accosted me to the police station, along with my personal electronic gadgets and mobile phone, and began asking me all sorts of questions regarding posts, photos and telephone numbers. After this, they decided to hold back all my equipment in order to inspect all information therefrom; I had no problem with this, so, after 4 hours, I went back to the place I was lodging in.

In Litschau, at 5 am on 17/07/2016, just 1 day before I was meant to leave the country, Cobra security unit attacked me in my home; they arrested me and tied my hands and feet in a vicious way, up until 9 am. They accused me of training Palestinian youths to carry out terrorist attacks against Israel, that I was part of the terrorist group called Hamas.

I pleaded with them to call my wife and inform her of what was happening, but they said this was not possible, not for another 9 months.

I did not understand anything they said; they kept asking me about people with whom I had no relation. I tried to explain that Israel controlled and manipulated our social media communications and that it always lied about the Palestinian people in order to suppress and oppress them.

They took me to Krems prison on the Danube river. On 19/07/2019, they moved me to top security facility, Josefstad prison in Vienna.

In August 2017, the main tribunal at Krems lasted for 5 days, in conjunction with an Israeli military hearing via video conference, in the presence of 2 other Palestinian prisoners from the West Bank, acting as ‘witness’.

In Tel Aviv, the judge insisted that I be condemned in the strongest and harshest way possible.

The court does not allow us to defend ourselves in any shape or form from trumped up charges, forcing us to confess under torture.

The Palestinian people are subjected to such criminal tactics, and the verdicts they receive are considered legal in a qualified court.

On 24/08/2017, I was sentenced to LIFE IMPRISONMENT.

I have to prostrate myself to the ground and say: Imprisonment should not be my destiny. I did NOTHING to deserve it…it should not be my destiny.


The letter was slightly shortened. Accusations against the Austrian police and prison authorities, which were also subject to the court trial, were not reproduced.