Gretna family demands U.S. government do more to get mother released from Israeli prison

Gretna family demands U.S. government do more to get mother released from Israeli prison
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WASHINGTON — Samaher Esmail, 46, an American-born citizen of Palestinian descent who hails from Gretna, has been imprisoned in Israel for a week without charges.

Two of her sons demanded Monday that President Joe Biden’s administration advocate for her, saying the White House would make more of an effort for White Christians or Jews.

Esmail was arrested early on the morning of Feb. 5 by the Israeli Defense Forces during a visit to a village on the occupied West Bank — hundreds of miles from the fighting in Gaza. She was taken in her pajamas — and without her medications — to the Damun prison in the northern part of Israel.

During a sparsely attended news conference at the national offices of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, CAIR, in Washington, one of her sons, Suliman Hamed, received a text from her lawyer saying his mother still has not been charged with a crime.

The lawyer is the only outsider who has been given access to visit Esmail. The lawyer said Esmail has bruises and cuts and is showing signs of stress from being without her medications for a week.

The U.S. State Department, as of Monday morning, has not visited Esmail in prison, the family said. The department advocates for American citizens when they are detained in foreign countries.

“If we were White Christian or Israeli Americans, would the embassy have responded sooner? This is the question I ask myself on a daily basis,” Suliman Hamed said. “She was born in New York. She is a resident of Louisiana. She is a taxpayer. She is a businesswoman. Absolutely unacceptable.”

Hamed suspects, but doesn’t know, that the Israeli government is responding to social media posts his mother made in America in which she criticized Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.

His brother, Ibrahim, said he has spoken once to the State Department, which asked for her passport number and other identifying information. The agency never called back and never responded to his frequent queries, he said.

“We have very few facts about her arrest, but as an American citizen, she is entitled to all the protections this country provides,” U.S. Rep. Troy Carter, D-New Orleans and the family’s congressperson, said Monday afternoon. Carter said he has been speaking to the State Department and to local advocacy organizations.

“I am doing everything in my power to keep her physically safe and get her home to Louisiana with her children where she belongs,” Carter added.

U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge, read about Esmail’s plight and called the State Department. Officials told him the family needed to sign a privacy release before they could share information, according to a Cassidy spokesperson.

Ibrahim Hamed said the State Department told them something similar. But because no diplomatic counsel has visited her in prison, she has been unable to sign the document, he said.

Cassidy’s office spoke directly to the sons Monday morning on how to clear the bureaucratic hurdles.

The White House, the State Department and the Israeli Embassy to the United States did not respond Monday to requests for comments or information about the case.

Esmail’s detention led to a flurry of articles and televised segments in New Orleans last week.

Ibrahim Hamed told the handful of reporters at Monday’s news conference that he was concerned his mother’s situation would be quickly forgotten.

“Their mother, Samaher, deserves release,” said Robert McCaw of CAIR. “She deserves the American government’s attention and the full force of our diplomatic support to secure her release and medical attention.”

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About Mary Weyand 36043 Articles
Mary founded Scoop Tour with an aim to bring relevant and unaltered news to the general public with a specific view point for each story catered by the team. She is a proficient journalist who holds a reputable portfolio with proficiency in content analysis and research. With ample knowledge about the Automobile industry, she also contributes her knowledge for the Automobile section of the website.

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