By Popular Struggle Coordination Committee: 29 May 2102
Tamimi was slapped with a longer imprisonment period than his alleged accomplice, who was convicted of more serious offenses.
Bassem Tamimi and wife, Nariman Tamimi, waiting at the Israeli military occupation court to hear sentencing.
In a controversial ruling by an Israeli Military Court earlier today, Tamimi, a grassroots organizer from the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh, was sentenced to 13 months imprisonment, which he had already served. Tamimi’s alleged accomplice, who was charged of the same charges and was convicted also of charges that Tamimi was acquitted of, was only sentenced to 12 months imprisonment as part of a plea bargain.
In addition, the judge, Major Eti Adar, also sentenced Tamimi to a suspended sentence of 17 months, which will be activated in the event that he is convicted of committing incitement, solicitation to throw stones, stone-throwing, accessory to stone-throwing, attempted stone-throwing or actions against public order within the next five years. If convicted of having participated or organized unpermitted marches within the next two years, a suspended sentence of 2 months will be added to his punishment.
On hearing the sentence, Tamimi said, “The military court, being an instrument of occupation, sent a clear message today that Palestinian political prisoners are better off confessing to what they have not done than go to trial. I was acquitted of the bulk of the indictment against me, but served more time than my friend who chose to plead guilty to all the charges in a plea-bargain. Has I confessed to what I was not convicted of, I could have returned to my family earlier.”
The hefty suspended sentence imposed on Tamimi for “actions against public order” – a charge Tamimi was neither convicted of nor charged with – as well as for “incitement”, in fact represent an attempt to literally remove Tamimi from the sphere of political activism. The two offences are defined by military law in a manner that can be interpreted to include any political activity under the Occupation. The offence of actions against public order is defined as “Committing an act which harms or may harm public peace or public order” (Article 247 of the Order regarding Security Provisions [Consolidated Version]), while incitement is defined as “Attempts, orally or otherwise, to influence public opinion in the Area in a manner which may harm public peace or public order (Article 247B1 of the Order regarding Security Provisions [Consolidated Version]).
Tamimi was arrested in March of 2011, indicted on protest-organizing related charges, and has spent 13 months in jail before he was granted bail last month. Tamimi was convicted on May 20th, a move that stirred harsh criticism by the EU’s foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, who said that “The EU […] is concerned at the use of evidence based on the testimony of a minor who was interrogated in violation of his rights”
The court acquitted Tamimi of incitement – the central charge brought against him, which included allegations of military-like activity – but convicted him of organizing and participating in illegal marches as well as of solicitation to throw stones.
The bulk of the indictment against Tamimi was based on the testimonies of three youth from the village, aged 15, 19, and most heavily on that of a 14 year-old. The judge ruled the statement given by the 14 year-old, Islam Dar Ayyoub, is unreliable and could not substantiate a conviction. The court therefore acquitted Tamimi of the incitement charge, that included allegations, supported only by Dar Ayyoub’s testimony, that Tamimi had formed battalions who lead the demonstrations.
In regards to the 19 year-old’s statement, the judge ruled after viewing the recording of his interrogation, that the transcript of that was handed to the court was mendacious, and that the interrogators put words in his mouth, leading him to incriminate Tamimi.
The conviction, therefore, was based on the testimony of the 15 year-old, which the judge ruled is credible despite clear video evidence to the contrary. The audio-visual recording of his interrogation proves that he, too, was questioned in an unlawful manner, told to implicate others and was led to believe that doing so may earn him a more lenient treatment by the court. The boy was told, numerous times, “Tell us what happened […] and who in the village incited you to throw stones. […] (shouting) you were incited! You…. you are a young boy, incited by people. Grownups, we know. It’s the grownups who incite you, right?”
Tamimi’s trial has become the center on international interest and subject to criticism on the use of military justice to repress civil resistance to the occupation and on the treatment of minors. Following his arrest, Tamimi was recognized as a human rights defender by the European Union and pronounced a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International. His verdict today was attended by a dozen diplomats, including the British, Spanish, Dutch, Slovenian and Cypriot Consul Generals, as well as the representative of the European Union. Diplomats from Germany, Sweden, Ireland the USA and the UN were also in attendance.
During the course of Tamimi’s trial, new evidence has emerged, including first hand verification given by a military commander of disproportional use of force by the army in response to peaceful demonstrations, as well as police admittal of systematic violations of Palestinian minors’ rights during police interrogations, when a police interrogator who questioned both material witnesses against Tamimi, said on the stand that in his 25 years as an officer, he cannot recall a single time in which a Palestinian minor was allowed the presence of his parents during questioning.