Translated by, Saed Bannoura, IMEMC

After he was released from detention, Sheikh Hasan Yousef talks to the PNN in an exclusive interview about the long solitary imprisonment and interrogation.

Sheikh Hasan Yousef, who was released on Thursday morning, was arrested during Operation Defensive Shield, a major invasion of most West Bank cities, which took place in April 2002.

Yusef, known as a moderate Hamas leader, become head of Hamas’ political wing in the West Bank in August 2001.

Released from Ofer military jail, Yusef immediately traveled to Ramallah, where he placed a wreath and offered prayers at Yasser Arafat’s grave.

“I decided to visit Arafat’s grave directly after I was release, to ensure unity and among the Palestinians and factions.

“on August 13, 2002, more than tens tanks and tens of soldiers encircled a home were I was present, and threatened to shell the home if I don’t surrender, they told me that am wanted for questioning and transferred me to Beit Eil interrogation canter, near Ramallah, were I was placed in a small cell for more than ten hours, and at dawn, I was transferred to Al-Maskobiyya interrogation center, near Jerusalem”.

Sheikh Hasan was interrogated for 70 days, more than ten teams of interrogators took shifts, some of them already knew him from previous arrests and interrogation periods, he was forced to stand for long periods, blindfolded and handcuffed.

The Israeli security charged him of relations with the military wing of Hamas, and placed in front of him 161 confessions, according to their claims, and 7000 reports provided to them by the collaborators.

“I faced them and their charges with a silent tongue and a broken open”, Sheikh Hasan said.

“In spite of the huge amounts of papers and recordings they taped for me during TV interviews, I denied all of their charges, I even refused to sign on the charges list, they even arrested my son in order to impose pressure on me, but I held my peace.”

Sheikh Hasan was transferred for more than eight prisons, including nine months in solitary in Bir Shiva detention, and was subjected to all sorts of physical and psychological torture.

After twenty months in detention, sheikh Hasan was informed that he will be transferred to Ofer detention, near Ramallah, for further interrogation.

Upon arriving at Ofer detention, he found intelligence officials and security officers trying to bargain him on a deal concerning his imprisonment and resistance members in the camp, but he rejected and told them that “he was not assigned by any party to negotiate on their behalf”.

The Israeli security tried to impose physiological pressure on him, and told him that he could phone his wife and children, but he rejected.

“I told myself, I am not that cheap”, Hasan said, “send me back to solitary, and give the detainees a change to phone their families”, Hasan said.

Afterwards, Sheikh Hasan was placed in solitary, but this time in a cage, where he was not allowed to talk to any one, and not even allowed to look through the keyhole.

“After the latest hunger strike in August 2004, I was placed in solitary, in a very dark cell, for three days, there I contracted a skin disease and allergy, they refused to give me any medication, and barred me form seeing the prison doctor, and insulted me, I was not client, I faced their insults with the pride of a Palestinian detainees, the other detainees were not silent too, then I was removed from solitary, to another solitary room, but near the rooms of the detainee”, sheikh Hasan said.

Sheikh Hasan said that he met with thousands of detainees, lived among them and shared with them their suffering, some of them have been their since more than ten years, after being arrested at the age of 18 or less, “they all have high spirits and will”, he said.

Concerning his opinion of a truce with Israel, and Hamas position concerning the truce, Sheikh Hasan said that there cannot be a truce while the detainees are still imprisoned.

Some hours before he was released, an officer of the Israeli security tried threat him, but he told the officer that as long as there are detainees still in detention, we cannot talk about a truce, “the detainees are the first priority, they should be released before any solution is reached”.

When Sheikh Hasan was asked about the presidential elections, and whether Hamas will present its own candidate, sheikh Yousef said: “Hamas believed that the elections should be conducted as a full package, and not partial, we need new blood to rule in the Palestinian society, the movement will give legitimacy to partial elections, the movement might not concentrate on the presidential elections as long as there are real guarantees to conduct municipal and legislative elections later on, and concerning presidential election, it depends of the conditions, but the movement might not specify any candidate to this position, and to the legislative lections too”.

When asked about the impacts of the president’s death, sheikh Yousef, said that Yasser Arafat had its effects and that he symbolized the Palestinian struggle; “he was able to control the social, political and security aspects, especially that the social formula in the Palestinian society was deeply affected and touched by his unique personality, but the Palestinian nation can “deliver new leaderships”, Sheikh Yousef said.

“There are dangers of insecurity, the shooting in the mourning tent in Gaza is a dangerous issue, but the Palestinian society will overcome the difference and will not slip into internal conflicts”.

“Hamas will not allow anybody to create internal conflicts, and will do its utmost efforts to preserve the Palestinian unity, after Oslo agreement, Hamas was harmed, when the P.A attacks some of its offices, but the movement did not shoot back”, Sheikh Yousef added.

When asked about the possibility that the P.A will conduct arrests, and collect weapons from political factions, Sheikh Hasan said that that resistance is stronger than peaceful solutions, “the Palestinian people will not disarm the resistance as long as there is occupation”.

Sheikh Hasan called upon the security devices to aid the resistance instead of conflicting with its positions, “our target is the occupation, not each other”.

“This is something I say for the first time, the gun is not our aim, it’s our way to achieve our target, we in Hamas, do not present ourselves as an alternative to any leadership, we are not partners in the negotiations, but we are partners in blood, fate and decision”.

At the end of the interview, Sheikh Hasan appealed both the Arab and Moslem Nations to provide that Palestinian with the needed financial and moral support, and to stand firm against the American plan which aims to wipe out the Arab nation and its culture and history, according to Sheikh Hasan.