video by Bilal Tamimi
video by David Reeb
video by Bilal Tamimi
video by David Reeb
Bassem Tamimi from Nabi Saleh testified yesterday as part of the defense’s case in the ongoing trial against him. Tamimi, suspected of protest related charges, was arrested on March last year, and remains in detention since.
A short video with archive footage and an interview with Tamimi held shortly before his arrest. Video by Popular Strugge Coordination Committee
After 11 months in an Israeli jail, Bassem Tamimi, a prominent Palestinian activist from Nabi Saleh, was given a chance to plead his case before the military court in regards to the allegations against him, denying them in full while owning up to his and his village’s struggle against the Occupation and the theft of their lands. Tamimi, who was recognized by the European Union as a human rights defender last year, said, “International law gives us the right to peaceful protest, to demonstrate our refusal of the policies that hurt us, our daily life and the future of our children”.
Tamimi began his testimony by telling of his past experience in Israeli prisons and interrogation rooms. He recounted how he was tortured so badly by the Israeli Shin Bet in 1993 that he suffered a severe Intracranial hemorrhage which left him unconscious for a week and partially paralyzed.
He then continued to explain the reason behind the Nabi Saleh protests, saying “I do not know and do not care if they are permitted by your law, as it was enacted by an authority I do not recognize”. He narrated how the settlers from the nearby Halamish continuously took over lands belonging to his village since the 1970s abetted by the army and how, when villagers tried to prevent the latest attempts to seize their lands, the Israeli army exerted repression tactics against them. “Every time we try to help them work the land, before we reach it, they disperse us using rubber bullets, tear gas and using excessive force. This is what happens every Friday”, he said.
Based on coerced statements extracted unlawfully by the Israeli police from two minors, Tamimi is charged with organizing his village of 500 people in a formation of 11 battalions and assigning them different roles during the demonstrations. When asked of his reply to the charges against him Tamimi answered, This is ridiculous and makes no sense, how stupid would I be to try and organize a 500 people village in 11 battalions [...] If indeed there were such battalions how come the Shin Bet or anyone else did not continue the investigation and arrests after mine was carried out? No one continued to look into this issue to try and dismantle this ‘army’ of mine”, he cynically remarked. “True justice would not have me stand here before this court at all, let alone while I am imprisoned and shackled. This case is baseless and made up with the sole goal of putting me behind bars [...]“, he continued.
During the course of Tamimi’s trial, new evidence has emerged, including proof of systematic violations of Palestinian minors’ rights during police interrogations, as well as first hand verification given by a military commander of disproportional use of force by the army in response to peaceful demonstrations.
Video by: Fallujah1349 on Jan 24, 2012
Nariman Tamimi talks about her husband Bassem Tamimi, one of the main organizers of the Nabi Saleh popular resistance weekly protests against Israeli occupation. Bassem was arrested on March 24th 2011 on the basis of a 14 year old’s unlawful interrogation, and is yet to be sentenced.
Then, one night in January 2011, about 20 Israeli soldiers surrounded the dilapidated Dar Ayyoub home and pounded vigorously on the door. Islam, who was 14 at the time, said he thought they had come for his older brother. Instead, they had come for him. He was blindfolded, handcuffed and whisked away in a jeep.
From that moment, Islam’s childhood was over. Catapulted into the Israeli military justice system, an arm of Israel’s 44-year-old occupation of the West Bank, Islam became embroiled in a legal process as challenging and perplexing as the world in which he has grown up. The young man was interrogated and pressed to inform on his relatives, neighbors and friends.
The military justice system that overwhelmed Islam has come under increasing scrutiny for its often harsh, unforgiving methods. One Palestinian prisoner has been hospitalized because of a hunger strike in protest against being detained for months without trial. Human rights organizations have recently focused their criticism on the treatment of Palestinian minors, like Islam.
Now, as a grass-roots leader from Nabi Saleh stands trial, having been incriminated by Islam, troubling questions are being raised about these methods of the occupation.
It is the intimate nature of Islam’s predicament that makes this trial especially wrenching for the young man, his family and his community. Most of Nabi Saleh’s 500 residents belong to the same extended family. The leader on trial, Bassem Tamimi, 44, was Islam’s next-door neighbor. Islam was close friends with Mr. Tamimi’s son, Waed, a classmate. And Mr. Tamimi’s wife is a cousin of Islam’s mother.
“This case is legally flawed and morally tainted,” said Gaby Lasky, Islam’s Israeli lawyer. Islam is traumatized, she said, “not only because of what happened to him, but also what happened to others.”
After he was pulled from his home at night, Islam was taken to a nearby army base where, his lawyer said, he was left out in the cold for hours. In the morning, he was taken to the Israeli police for interrogation. Accused of throwing stones at Israeli soldiers inside the village, he was encouraged to identify other youths and the adult organizers of weekly protests here.
In a police videotape of Islam’s five-hour interrogation, the teenager is at times visibly exhausted. Alone and denied access to a lawyer for most of the period, he was partially cautioned three times about his rights but was never told directly that he had the right to remain silent.
Instead, the chief interrogator instructed him, “We want only the truth. You must tell everything that happened.”
The young man, who seemed eager to please his interrogators, described how village youths were organized into nine “brigades,” each assigned tasks like throwing stones, blocking roads and hurling unexploded tear-gas canisters back at the soldiers.
Soon, the arrests followed.
Mr. Tamimi was taken last March and is being held at the Ofer military prison. The charges against him include organizing unauthorized processions, solicitation to stone throwing and incitement to violence. Mr. Tamimi has proudly acknowledged that he organized what he called peaceful protests but denied ever having told anyone to throw stones.
Mr. Tamimi’s wife, Nariman, attended a recent court hearing with Waed.
Asked about Islam, her voice softened. “He is our neighbor,” she said. “The interrogation was very difficult. He was afraid. He is just a child.”
Another organizer that Islam identified for the authorities, Naji Tamimi, 49, spent a year in jail and is about to be released.
Islam also informed on Mu’tasim Khalil Tamimi, who was then 15, identifying him as a youth ringleader. Mu’tasim subsequently spent six months in jail; he, too, identified organizers of the protests.
Bassem Tamimi’s lawyer, Labib Habib, said that the testimony of the two minors formed “the essence of the case” against his client. The defense lawyers contend that the terms of the minors’ arrests and interrogations violated their rights, and that their testimony should be dismissed.
But an official in the office of Israel’s Military Advocate General, who was authorized to speak on the condition of anonymity, said the Nabi Saleh case was “a classic one of orchestrated riots that exploit children.”
The official denied that the case against Mr. Tamimi rested largely on Islam’s testimony, saying there were other witnesses.
Under the Israeli youth law, Islam’s treatment would be deemed illegal. Minors are generally allowed to have a parent or other relative present during interrogation, and there are strict rules about nighttime interrogations and other protections.
Most of these protections do not exist in the military system, though military appellate court judges have stated that the spirit of the youth law should apply whenever possible to Palestinians.
After Israel conquered the West Bank from Jordan in the 1967 war, it established military courts independent of the army command. They draw on Jordanian law, on the laws from the period of British rule and on a plethora of military orders issued over the past four decades.
The Israeli official said that the military was striving to close gaps between the two systems, but that the Israeli youth law could not be put into full effect in the West Bank because of the difficult conditions. Israel recently raised the age of majority for Palestinians to 18 from 16, and it established the juvenile military court in 2009. But nighttime military operations were the only way to arrest Palestinian suspects, the official said, because summonses were routinely ignored and daytime arrests could set off confrontations.
Islam’s arrest came as part of a crackdown in Nabi Saleh. A few nights earlier, soldiers had raided the Dar Ayyoub home and other houses, photographing and taking details of all the men and boys. Days after Islam was taken, his younger brother, Karim, then 11, was seized by soldiers and held for hours at a police station on suspicion of throwing stones. Last month, during pretrial proceedings in the case against Islam, a juvenile military court judge acknowledged serious flaws in the interrogation but ruled his testimony admissible.
Sarit Michaeli of B’Tselem, an Israeli human rights organization, said that the youth judge could have taken a stand but had “failed this particular minor, and all the others.”
Islam spent two and a half months in prison before he was released to house arrest. Since September, he has been allowed out to go to school, which he now loathes. His father says he stays awake all night watching television, fearing that the soldiers will return.
In an interview at his home this month, Islam said he knew his rights, having once attended a workshop on interrogations in the village. But he said that he was told by an officer beforehand that rights would not help him. “I thought that if I spoke, they would release me,” he said.
Most of the villagers have shown understanding. Sometimes friends stop by for an hour or two. Waed is not among them.
Almost a year after his arrest, the Palestinian protest organizer from the village of Nabi Saleh, will have a chance to answer his accusers.
When: Sunday, February 19th, 2012, at 10 AM
Where: Ofer Military Court*
* Entry to the military court must be coordinated with the Israeli army’s spokesperson’s office in advance.
Bassem Tamimi, who was arrested on March 24th, 2011, is being tried for organizing demonstrations in his village, Nabi Saleh, north-west of Ramallah. The Military Prosecution’s case against Tamimi is based on the coerced confessions of two children, 14 and 15 years old. In the course of interrogations tainted by illegality and gross violations of the minors’ rights, the two incriminated Tamimi of having organized protests and stone-throwing.
At the opening of the trial, during his arraignment, Tamimi pleaded “not guilty” to the charges against him, and gave a general but defiant statement, explaining the motivation and rational behind the demonstrations in his village. During the course of Tamimi’s trial, new evidence has emerged, including proof of systematic violations of Palestinian minors’ rights during police interrogations, as well as first hand verification given by a military commander of disproportional use of force by the army in response to peaceful demonstrations.
Almost a year into his detainment, the hearing on Sunday will, in fact, be Tamimi’s first chance to face his accusers and give his own version of the events. Tamimi, who has been recognized as a human rights defender by the European Union shortly after his arrest, is expected to say that his arrest and trial is motivated by Israel’s will to crack down of Palestinian popular resistance to the Occupation.
Photos by Activestills collective and live sound recording:
Two years of popular struggle against the Israeli occupation and settlements, in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh.
The illegal settlement of Halamish which can be seen from many houses in the village, is built on more than half of the village’s land. In December 2009, after settlers confiscated a spring located on private Palestinian land, residents of the village together with their neighbor villages started weekly demonstrations. Palestinians who demanded the right to be on their land were attacked by settlers, some of them armed, while Israeli soldiers stood by and/or protected the settlers. At the time of writing, the Israeli army prohibits the access of Palestinians in groups and on Fridays to the spring, while settlers have unlimited access.
Since then, and despite harsh daily repression, the residents of Nabi Saleh continue to go every Friday, together with other Palestinians, and international and Israeli activists, to demonstrate and resist the Israeli occupation