Nabi Saleh protest organiser, Bassem Tamimi, to remain under arrest

31 March 2011 | Popular Struggle Coordination Committee

Tamimi’s arrest was extended by an Israeli military judge after the prosecution filed a grievous indictment. The hearing took place in front of a courtroom packed with Tamimi’s family, supporters, European diplomats and Israeli intellectuals.

Bassem Tamimi in court (PSCC)

Bassem Tamimi, 44, a protest organizer from Nabi Saleh and the coordinator of the village’s popular committee, was indicted at the Ofer Military Court today. Tamimi is charged with incitement, organizing unpermitted marches, solicitation to throw stones, disobeying the duty to report to questioning, and a scandalous obstruction of justice charge, for allegedly giving youth advice on how to act under interrogation by the police in the event that they are arrested.

Seven days after his arrest, today was the first time Tamimi was brought in front of a judge. In attendance at the hearing were diplomats from Spain, France and the EU, Tamimi’s wife, many of his supporters and notable Israeli intellectuals, among them acclaimed Israeli novelist, Yoram Kanyuk.

Tamimi’s arrest was extended by eleven days to allow his lawyer, Adv. Labib Habib to study the case file and argue against the extension of the arrest until the end of legal procedures. His next hearing will take place on April 10th, 2011.

Tamimi is one of the prominent figures of the Palestinian popular struggle in the West Bank and considered by many as the engine behind Nabi Saleh’s grassroots mobilization against the occupation and for the protection of the village’s lands from settler take over.

The main evidence in Tamimi’s case is the testimony of 14 year-old Islam Dar Ayyoub, also from Nabi Saleh, who was arrested from his bed at gunpoint on the night of January 23rd. In his interrogation the morning after his arrest, Islam alleged that Bassem and Naji Tamimi organized groups of youth into “brigades”, each with its own responsibility during the demonstrations: some are allegedly in charge of stone-throwing, some of blocking roads, etc.

During a trial-within-a-trial procedure in Islam’s trial, motioning for his testimony to be ruled inadmissible, it was proven that his interrogation was fundamentally flawed and violated the rights set forth in the Israeli Youth Law in the following:

1. Despite being a minor, he was questioned in the morning following his arrest, without being allowed any sleep.
2. He was denied legal consul even while his lawyer was present at the police station.
3. He was denied his right to have a parent present during his questioning.
4. He was not informed of his right to remain silent, and even told that he is “expected to tell the truth” by his interrogators.
5. It was acknowledged by the interrogators that only one of the four interrogators was qualified as a youth interrogator.

While the trial-within-a-trial procedure has not yet reached conclusion, the evidence already revealed has brought the military court to revise its remand decision and order Islam’s release to house arrest. The military prosecution appealed this decision, and a ruling by the Military Court of Appeals is expected any day now.

Over the past two months, the army has arrested 19 of Nabi Saleh’s residents on protest related suspicions. Half of those arrested are minors, the youngest of whom are merely eleven.

Ever since the beginning of the village’s struggle against settler takeover of their lands in December of 2009, the army has conducted 64 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 on charges of incitement and organizing illegal demonstrations. Abu Rahmah was released last week.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.

For more details: Jonathan Pollak +972-54-632-7736

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