Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby criticises Israel over Palestinian Christian woman in detention

The Archbishop of Canterbury has criticised Israel over the arrest of a young Palestinian Christian woman in the occupied West Bank.

Justin Welby, the head of the Anglican Church, says the plight of Layan Nasir is a breach of assurances made by Israel about the treatment of Christians.

The case highlights the controversial Israeli practice of administrative detention used to hold thousands of Palestinians for months without charge.

Ms Nasir, 23, was taken from her home in the early hours on 6 April.

Her mother Lulu says 20 soldiers arrived at 4am threatening her family with guns as they searched the house.

Now she is left wracked with worry, she says, not knowing why the soldiers took her daughter. The Israelis, she says, have told the family nothing.

She says: "The worst thing is when I went to bed in the night, and start thinking how she slept. Did she eat? This is very hard for me when I start thinking in this way. I'm worried but I can't do anything."

The Israeli military told Sky News: "On April 6, 2024, Nasir was arrested in the village of Birzeit, in view of intelligence information regarding the danger she poses to the security of the area. Nasir resisted arrest and confronted the forces.

"On April 14, 2024, the military commander issued an administrative arrest warrant for four months. The military court in Judea is expected to hold a review hearing in her case this week."

But her arrest has prompted the highly unusual intervention of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Ms Nasir is thought to be the only Christian Palestinian woman being detained by Israelis.

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The archbishop's office told Sky News he is "deeply concerned to learn that she is now facing administrative detention for four months, without charge and with no due process for her, her family or lawyers to challenge this.

"Such processes against what is already a deeply threatened minority are contrary to commitments given over the years."

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Israel condemned by human rights groups and law experts

The Israeli practice of holding thousands of Palestinians without charge in administrative detention has been condemned by human rights groups and international law experts.

The number of Palestinians being detained like Ms Nasir has almost tripled since 7 October to more than 3,500.

They are held for four months but that can be renewed every four months for up to two years.

And there are multiple reports of conditions in Israel's jails worsening dramatically since the current war began.

'I wish that they kill me'

Sky News spoke to another Palestinian released from detention.

Human rights activist and social worker Munther Amira was taken at gunpoint from his home in Aida camp, Bethlehem, in December then beaten and stripped naked in custody, he says.

The experience, he says, has left him traumatised.

He tells Sky News: "When you are naked, they force you to stand up to raise your hand sometimes to raise your leg, to open your legs."

He says it made him "very angry".

"I wish that they kill me before. Maybe it's the first time that I have this feeling of what is the meaning of sexual harassment," he adds.

'Every day they were forced to make noise like the dogs'

And Munther says in the same jail he could hear prisoners from Gaza being held and abused.

"You can hear them. So they were beaten every day by the guards," he says.

"Every day they were forced to make noise like the dogs. They were forced to raise their voice with things against their leadership, or they were crying."

Israel denies mistreatment

In a statement, the Israeli military told Sky News: "The mistreatment of detainees during their time in detention or whilst under interrogation violates IDF values and contravenes IDF orders and is therefore absolutely prohibited.

"The IDF denies general and unsubstantiated claims regarding sexual abuse of detainees in the IDF's detention facilities."

'Inhuman and degrading treatment'

But NGOs like Amnesty International say the practice of detaining thousands of Palestinians without charge facilitates their "inhuman and degrading treatment".

Since the war began Israel has exchanged some Palestinian prisoners for hostages being held by Hamas in Gaza.

There is considerable evidence the hostages being held by Hamas have been abused, beaten and some subjected to sexual assaults.

Israel says Hamas has refused to allow the International Red Cross to visit them.