by Popular Struggle Coordination Committee: Sunday, 25 September 2011
The trial of Nabi Saleh protest organizer, Bassem Tamimi, opened today with the testimony of Major Michelle Dahan who alleged that Tamimi ordered youth to throw stones based on the fact that he saw him on rooftops during demonstrations.
After more than half a year behind lock and key, the trial of Palestinian protest organizer, Bassem Tamimi, opened today with the testimony of the first prosecution witness, Major Michelle Dahan. Dahan served as a deputy battalion commander in Nabi Saleh between January and May this year, and was to testify on behalf of the prosecution in order to substantiate allegations of incitement to violence against Tamimi.
Dahan, who was commander of the military forces in the area and in charge of the Nabi Saleh demonstrations throughout said period, made it clear that the protests were dispersed before any violence ensued . He said, “[...] after midday prayer, at around noon, some 40 to 70 people would set out from the mosque’s courtyard [...] and march down with flags [...]. As soon as the procession arrived at the [village's] main junction, we would declare it illegal and order people to disperse [...]. When the march would not disperse, we would start using crowd control measures [...]“.
Referring to the protesters Dahan said, “We recognized the same activists, the same children and adults, with the adults mostly occupied with directing the forces [...]“. Throughout his testimony, Dahan reputedly to referred to the stone throwing children as “forces”, alternating the two words.
He went on to say that “The defendant would appear at the beginning of every demonstration, and as soon as it would turn violent, the defendant would disappear. During the stone-throwing, when we would enter inside the village to arrest the stone throwers, we’d recognize him on rooftops”.
The indictment against Tamimi alleges that he architected an elaborate system of violence against soldiers during Nabi Saleh demonstrations. Dahan indeed testified that Tamimi directed the village youth from rooftops, but could not back his statement by more that hearsay and speculation. The only concrete incident Dahan was able to tie Tamimi to took place at an unknown date in January wherein he claimed to have seen the defendant standing on a roof top in the village, shouting and waving his arms during clashes in the village. Dahan, however, admitted to not having heard what the older men were shouting and to the fact that he does not at all understand the Arabic language.
When asked why he did not order Tamimi’s arrest based on what he saw, Dahan admitted that his commanding officers ordered him not to do so, saying “My certainty [that Tamimi incited the youth] was apparently not sufficient [to justify arrest]“.
See here for the full protocol of the hearing (in Hebrew)