Israeli Army arrests local protest leader in Nabi Saleh

6 March 2011 | Popular Struggle Coordination Committee

Naji Tamimi during a demonstration in Nabi Saleh. Picture credit: Nariman Tamimi 

Naji Tamimi, member of the Nabi Saleh popular committee and one of the leading figures in the struggle against the annexation of village lands by the nearby settlement of Halamish, was arrested last night during an army night raid on the village. The military also searched the home of another popular committee member, Bassem Tamimi, absent at the time. These last few weeks saw the army waging an extensive arrest campaign against village residents, specifically targeting minors.

At around 1:30 AM last night, dozens of soldiers swarmed the village of Nabi Saleh, north of Ramallah, arresting 47 year old Naji Tamimi. Tamimi, who was sleeping in his home at the time, was taken out blindfolded and handcuffed. Tamimi is one of the village’s leading figures in its struggle against the occupation and for the protection of village lands from a Halamish settler take over.

Simultaneously, another group of soldiers raided the home of Bassem Tamimi, another prominent activist with the village’s popular committee who was absent at the time. Tamimi’s wife, Nariman, was woken up by the violent pounding and opened the door holding a video camera and filming. The soldiers ordered her to stop filming, and when she refused, violently confiscated the camera. After conducting a meticulous, hour long search of the premises, the soldiers left the house.

Over the last five weeks the army has arrested sixteen of Nabi Saleh’s residents on suspicion of participation in protests in the village. Half of the arrestees were minors, the youngest of whom merely eleven. The arrests were conducted based on incriminations extracted from a fourteen year-old boy from the village, recently arrested and subjected to verbal and emotional pressure during his interrogation. Prevented from consulting an attorney, he was interrogated in absence of his parents, albeit obliged by law. The interrogators have also never bothered informing the boy of his right to remain silent.

Ever since the beginning of the village’s struggle against settler takeover of their lands, in December of 2009, the army has conducted 63 arrests related to protest in the village. As the entire village numbers just over 500 residents, the number constitutes a gross 10% of its population.

Tamimi’s arrest last night corresponds to the systematic arrest of protest leaders all around the West Bank, as in the case of the villages of Bil’in and Ni’ilin. Only recently the Military Court of Appeals has aggravated the sentence of Abdallah Abu Rahmah from the village of Bilin, sending him to 16 months imprisonment. The arrest and trial of Abu Rahmah has been widely condemned by the international community, most notably by Britain and EU foreign minister, Catherin Ashton. Harsh criticism of the arrest has also been offered by leading human rights organizations in Israel and around the world, among them B’tselem, ACRI, as well as Human Rights Watch, which declared Abu Rahmah’s trial unfair, and Amnesty International, which declared Abu Rahmah a prisoner of conscience.