Military Court Orders to Jail Palestinian Activist, Naji Tamimi, for Peacefully Protesting on Nakba Day

by Popular Struggle Coordination Committee: 22 May 2012

Military Court Judge, Major Refael Yemini, ruled that Naji Tamimi, a protest leader from the village of Nabi Saleh is to remain in jail until the end of his trial for having participated in a peaceful demonstration.

Video by Khaled Sabarneh

Naji Tamimi, a 49 year-old activist from the village of Nabi Saleh, was arrested on May 15, during a demonstration at the Ni’ilin Checkpoint to commemorate the Nakba of 1948. Despite the peaceful nature of the demonstration, an Israeli military judge decided on Sunday to accept of the Military Prosecution’s motion to detain Tamimi until the end of legal proceedings against him. An appeal on the decision will be heard on Thursday at 10:30 AM, at the Military Court of Appeals.

Tamimi – who has only recently been released after a year in prison after being convicted of charges related to protest-organizing in his village – is not accused of any violence, but is, nevertheless, possibly facing two years imprisonment under Israel’s complete ban on Palestinian demonstrations in the West Bank. Furthermore, during the remand hearing, the military prosecutor admitted that Tamimi has been singled out for prosecution because of who he is and not for what he has done. The prosecutor, Captain Michael Avitan, said, “Had the defendant been someone else, the prosecution would most likely would not have asked to keep him in remand”, exposing the prosecution’s political motivation. The prosecutor also mentioned the presence of journalists at the protest and the fact that protesters were holding flags and signs as an aggravating factor.

During his previous incarceration, between March 2011 to February 2012, Tamimi was recognized as a human rights defender by the European Union.

Under military order 101, practically every Palestinian demonstration in the West Bank is forbidden. A violation of the order, which outlaws any gathering of ten or more people – whether in the public domain or not – unless it was granted a special permit in writing by the military commander, is punishable by ten years imprisonment. Israeli citizens, even when in the West Bank, are not subject to the draconian order. When participating in the same demonstration, Palestinian subjects are tried by military law, while Israeli citizens tried by Israeli criminal law.

On Sunday, another resident of Nabi Saleh, Bassem Tamimi, was convicted by the military court, in a trial that generated international attention and harsh criticism on Israel’s military justice system.

Background Naji Tamimi, a father of five and veteran grassroots activist, was born on September 2nd, 1962, in the village of Nabi Saleh. Tamimi studied accounting in Jordan, before completing a bachelor’s degree in history and political science at the Birzeit University, where he later also earned a master’s degree in Arab contemporary studies.

Tamimi comes from a family with long history in the Palestinian liberation struggle. His father was badly injured during the 1947-8 war, while serving under Abd al-Qader al-Husseini in the battle of Latrun. His elder brother, who was a PLO member based in Lebanon, was killed in 1973 during an attack staged by Israeli forces on the refugee camps of Baddawi and Nahr al-Bared. Tamimi himself has lost 17 acres of privately owned land, which were expropriated by Israeli authorities and handed over to the Israeli Jewish-only settlement of Halamish, located adjacent to Nabi Saleh from the south.

Tamimi has written extensively on both Palestinian culture and politics, and is the elected president of the Nabi Saleh cultural club. Prior to his current detention, Tamimi had spent a total of six years in Israeli prisons, in three different periods. As early as 1982, he was involved in the founding of Fatah’s Youth Committees for Social Work (al-Shabibah) in the North Ramallah area. The Shabibah was Fatah’s first serious popular enterprise, and later became one of the driving forces of the First Intifada. His latest imprisonment, a one-year sentence on charges of “incitement” and “organizing unpermitted marches”, ended in February 2012.

Tamimi’s lifelong devotion to justice and liberation remains wedded to his commitment to grassroots community organizing. He is one of the coordinators of the Nabi Saleh popular committee and a key figure in the village’s struggle to regain its lands from the settlement and end Israeli occupation.

In 1992, Tamimi married Bushra Tamimi, with which he fathers five children – two boys and three girls. He employed by the Ministry of Civil Affairs in the Palestinian Authority, as the manager of the Infrastructure and Land Department.

Tamimi is currently detained at the Ofer Prison near Ramallah, awaiting trial. He is charged with participating in an unpremitted march, obstruction of a soldier and illegally leaving a closed area.