Amnesty International: Israeli authorities must release Palestinian prisoner of conscience in West Bank

by Amnesty International: 1 November 2012

Nariman Tamimi, Bassem's wife said that "the police were brutal" during his arrestNariman Tamimi, Bassem’s wife said that “the police were brutal” during his arrest© Private

Once again, Bassem Tamimi is being held solely for peacefully exercising his rights to freedom of expression and assembly. We believe he is a prisoner of conscience and should be released immediately and unconditionally.

Ann Harrison, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Deputy Programme Director
Thu, 01/11/2012

The Israeli military authorities must end their campaign of harassment, intimidation and arbitrary detention against a Palestinian activist in the occupied West Bank, Amnesty International said.

Bassem Tamimi, who has been detained since his arrest at non-violent protest against the encroachment of Israeli settlers onto Palestinian land last week, faces a further prison sentence after appearing before the Ofer Military Court on Wednesday.

“Once again, Bassem Tamimi is being held solely for peacefully exercising his rights to freedom of expression and assembly. We believe he is a prisoner of conscience and should be released immediately and unconditionally,” said Ann Harrison, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Programme Director at Amnesty International.

Tamimi was arrested on 24 October following a non-violent demonstration in a supermarket in Sha’ar Benjamin settlement north of Ramallah. More than 100 protesters had gathered to call for an end to the occupation and a boycott of all Israeli products.

He faces charges of assaulting a police officer, participation in an unlicensed demonstration, and activity against the public order.

If convicted of either of the latter two “offences”, he will also have to serve one or more suspended sentences from a previous trial: two months for participation in an unlicensed demonstration, and 17 months for “activity against the public order”.

After viewing footage of the protest, the military judge ruled that he should be released to house arrest for the duration of legal proceedings. The military prosecution is appealing this decision, and he remains at Ofer prison.

Tamimi was previously sentenced in May 2012 to 13 months in prison for his role in organizing regular non-violent protests against Israeli settlements in the West Bank. At the time, Amnesty International considered him to be a prisoner of conscience, and called for his immediate and unconditional release.
The establishment and expansion of Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank violates international humanitarian law.

Violent arrest

According to eyewitness and media reports, as the protesters left the supermarket on 24 October they were beaten by Israeli police and security forces who also fired stun grenades.

Bassem’s wife Nariman Tamimi attended the protest and told Amnesty International: “The police were brutal during the arrest. They threw Bassem on the ground and pressed him down while putting the cuffs on his hands. Anyone who tried to approach them was beaten up. The police seemed scared and nervous. They wanted to make arrests fast.”

Despite the police use of unnecessary and excessive force, the military prosecution has charged Bassem Tamimi with assault, based on the testimony of one police officer who alleges that the activist hit him on the hand.

Amnesty International spoke to witnesses and reviewed numerous videos from the protest, and found no evidence that he or the other protesters used violence. Tamimi is committed to non-violent resistance and has a long record of peaceful protest. Another Palestinian protester, now released on bail, faces similar charges.

Tamimi managed to contact his wife after his arrest.

“He still had his phone with him, he told me that he was in a cell somewhere, and he said that he felt like there was something broken in chest, he said ‘I cannot move or breathe and I am very tired’. Then they took the phone away so we could not talk more,” she told Amnesty International.

Encroachment of settlers

Bassem Tamimi is from the West Bank village of al-Nabi Saleh, 21km northwest of Ramallah.

In July 2008 Israeli settlers from nearby Halamish began to use the Qaws spring, which is on al-Nabi Saleh land and used to irrigate crops there and in the nearby village of Deir Nitham. In February 2009 settlers began to build structures on the spring site.

The Palestinians complained that settlers were building on private Palestinian land, and that the work damaged other property including trees. Israeli police routinely close Palestinian complaints against settlers due to “lack of evidence”.

Israel’s Civil Administration, the military body which controls most of the West Bank, prohibits Palestinians from visiting the Qaws spring site in groups and on Fridays, while settlers are allowed unfettered access.

Ongoing demonstrations

Weekly demonstrations began on 9 December 2009. Every Friday residents of al-Nabi Saleh and solidarity activists gather around noon in the village centre and march peacefully towards the spring. They have been met repeatedly with unnecessary and excessive force by the Israeli army including the use of stun grenades, pepper spray, batons and guns.

Demonstrations are dispersed as soon as they begin and are usually not allowed to reach the spring. The Israeli army raids the village regularly, usually during the night, and conducts house searches and arrests, including the arrest of children under the age of 15.

Israeli military laws in place in the West Bank impose sweeping and arbitrary restrictions on freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, requiring people to obtain advance permission from the Israeli military for any proposed gathering of 10 or more persons “for a political purpose or for a matter that could be interpreted as political”.

Nariman Tamimi told Amnesty International that in al-Nabi Saleh and all areas where there is popular resistance, police use extreme violence, noting that “there is nothing [to the protests] except that you chant and express your opinion.”

As one of the organizers of the al-Nabi Saleh protests and a coordinator of the village’s popular committee, Bassem Tamimi and his family have been the target of harsh treatment by the Israeli army.

Since the demonstrations began, his house has been raided and ransacked numerous times. His wife has been arrested twice and two of his children have been injured – Wa’ed was in hospital for five days after he was hit in the leg by a rubber bullet and Mohammed was injured by a tear-gas canister that was shot directly at him and hit him in the shoulder.

Bassem Tamimi has been arrested by the Israeli army 11 times to date, though he has only once been convicted by a military court – on charges that Amnesty International believes were unfounded.

Bassem Tamimi injured and arrested with 3 others at Boycott Israel protest

24 October 2012 | International Solidarity Movement, West Bank

Four people, including Bassem Tamimi, the head of the Popular Committee of Nabi Saleh, were arrested by Israeli police today as Palestinians staged a peaceful direct action in an Israeli supermarket near the illegal settlement of Shaar Binyamin, north of Ramallah, calling for a boycott of Israeli goods. Two Palestinians were injured and removed in ambulances. Before he was arrested, Tamimi’s ribs were reportedly broken.

Two of those arrested were international human rights activists. One is an American and the other is from Poland. The American activist was dragged away by four Israeli officers.

Starting at around ten this morning, Palestinians and international activists gathered in the parking lot of Rami Levi supermarket, which is frequented by Israelis from the surrounding illegal settlements. The activists entered the market and walked up and down the aisles, holding Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) placards and waving Palestinian flags.

Demonstrators left the market voluntarily when the Israeli army arrived on the scene. As activists exited the building, about forty police, border police and soldiers were waiting in the parking lot. There, the Israeli authorities attacked the demonstrators and fired sound bombs at them.

Even though the demonstrators remained non-violent, soldiers punched, dragged and choked them. As one Palestinian man was pulled away from the soldiers by other demonstrators, to prevent his arrest, his walking stick was taken away as he lay on the ground – following this, he could not walk without assistance. A sound bomb was thrown just metres from the head of another Palestinian man who was already unconscious following attacks from the authorities.

Bassem Tamimi is the head of the popular committee of Nabi Saleh, a village that has suffered drastically from the creation and expansion of illegal settlements in the West Bank. Halamish settlement was created less than 1km away from Nabi Saleh, stealing a great deal of the villages’ land, as well as a spring that provided a vital water source for the village. Tamimi was released from prison in April of this year after spending 13 months in an Israeli prison for being accused of “taking part in illegal gatherings.” He was released on bail in April in order to take care of his elderly mother who had suffered a stroke.

The action today aimed to highlight the BDS campaign (www.bdsmovement.net ), which calls for a boycott of Israeli goods.

The status of the detained demonstrators is currently unknown, they remain held in the police station of the illegal settlement of Shaar Binyamin.

A Paletinian demonstrator gets arrested by Border Policemen during the protest at the Rami Levi Supermarket

A demonstrator gets first aid help after being injured by a sound grenade at the protest

Bassem Tamimi arrested as Palestinian activists stage BDS protest at Israeli supermarket in Occupied West Bank

by Popular Struggle Coordination Committee: 24 October 2012

Photos by ActiveStills

Activists called for the boycott of occupation and its products. Four activists were detained and several injuries due to soldiers’ brutality

This morning, more than 100 Palestinians, joined by number of international activists staged an action protest at the entrance of Rami Levi’s supermarket in Sha’ar Benjamin settlement north of Ramallah, to protest occupation and settler terror. They entered the market and walked up and down the aisles chanting for freedom and waving Palestinians flags. As activists exited the building, about forty policemen and soldiers were waiting outside, they attacked physically the demonstrators and fired stun grenades at them, causing several injuries, two of which were taken by ambulance to the hospital. Four people, including Basim Tamimi, the head of the Popular Committee of Nabi Saleh, were beaten and arrested by Israeli police. Tamimi’s ribs were broken and several Palestinians were injured. Protesters called for the boycott of occupation and all its products, and stressed that “as long as there is no justice to Palestinians, Israeli and settler daily life can’t continue on as normal.” Two of those arrested were Palestinians including Bassem Tamimi in addition to two international activists, an American and Polish. The protest was part of Popular Struggle Committees’ actions to protest the occupation and settlers terror against Palestinians. Last week about 50 Palestinian activists blocked the Apartheid Road 443 (known as Modi’in, which passes on West Bank lands, connecting Tel Aviv to Jerusalem). The road was blocked for about 30 minutes to Israeli and settler traffic.

Palestinian Activist, Bassem Tamimi, Sentenced to 13 Months Imprisonment & 17 months Suspended Sentence

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.

See here for a transcript of the sentencing hearing (Hebrew)

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.

Continue reading “Palestinian Activist, Bassem Tamimi, Sentenced to 13 Months Imprisonment & 17 months Suspended Sentence”

Military Court to Sentence Palestinian Activist, Bassem Tamimi, on Tuesday 29 May 2012

by Popular Struggle Coordination Committee: 27 May 2012

Bassem Tamimi (right) at the time of his release in April 2012 with fellow Nabi Saleh popular committee member, Naji Tamimi (centre) who also spent a year in jail for organising unarmed resistance to Israel’s occupation and Jonathan Pollak from the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee (left).  Photo by Keren Manor, Activestills.org

Tamimi was convicted of protest-organizing related charges, despite the court’s harsh criticism of the prosecution and police. The conviction was denounced by the European Union.

The sentence of Palestinian activist, Bassem Tamimi, will be delivered at the Ofer Military Court on Tuesday, May 27. Tamimi, a grassroots organizer from the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh, 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 last week, a move that was followed by 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”

Last week, the court acquitted Tamimi of incitement – the central charge brought against him – but convicted him of organizing and participating in illegal marches as well as of solicitation to throw stones. Despite the harsh criticism it suffered for the integrity of the case, the Military  Prosecution has petitioned for Tamimi to be sentenced to a period longer than 18 months.

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.

Continue reading “Military Court to Sentence Palestinian Activist, Bassem Tamimi, on Tuesday 29 May 2012”

West Bank protest leader Bassem Tamimi released from prison

Roughly a year after being arrested for organizing illegal protests, Bassem Tamimi is released from prison, amid suspicions that he will resume illegal protest activity.

by Amira Hass, Haaretz, 27 April 2012

A popular Palestinian leader was released on bail on Friday after serving a year in Ofer Prison.

Military judge, Maj. Amir Dahan decided to release Bassem Tamimi, a resident of the Nabi Saleh village, because of his mother’s medical situation. Tamimi’s mother suffered a stroke two weeks ago.

Tamimi’s defense attorney, Laviv Haviv, claimed that if he were not released at the end the legal proceedings, Tamimi would have served more time than the expected sentence he could have received for unauthorized protest processions and stone-throwing efforts.

The claim was based on the sentence received by Naji Tamimi, who was charged with similar crimes.

The army prosecutor opposed the release, claiming that the punishment Tamimi received as part of a plea bargain was less than the punishment received for similar convictions without a plea bargain.

In an article published by Tamimi in Haaretz on April 20, he claims that he poses an “ideological danger.”

The prosecutor, Eran Levi, said in an appeal that Tamimi will “most definitely continue to use the status he received because of his arrest to influence young people to throw stones.”

“The danger here is concrete. The crime here is ideological, and anything short of imprisonment will not prevent him from acting,” continued Levi.

The judge, Lt. Col. Tzvi Lakah, rejected the prosecutors appeal, and decided to release Tamimi on condition that he not leave Ramallah, and he spend weekends at the hospital with his mother, or at his nephew’s residence on house arrest. Two Israelis that participated in the protests in Ramallah signed on the third party bail of NIS 25,000.

Nabi Saleh Stands Strong in the Face of Nightly Raids

By Dylan Collins Palestine Monitor: March 24, 2012

Friday 23 March 2012–The tiny village of Nabi Saleh once again assembled together to hold another of its weekly nonviolent protests against the neighboring illegal Israeli settlement of Halamish, as well as Israel’s occupation at large. Friday’s demonstration was held in dedication to imprisoned village resident, Bassem Tamimi, who arrested exactly a year ago for organizing what Israeli authorities have deemed to be illegal demonstrations in Nabi Saleh, as well as Palestinian hunger striker Hana Shalabi on her 37th day without food in protest of Israel’s policy of administrative detention.

During the protest, Nabi Saleh resident Izz al-Abdul Hazfith Tamimi, age 15, was injured after being shot in the face by one of the Israeli Occupation Force’s rubber coated steel bullets. Usama Bilal Tamimi, age 16, was also injured after being struck by a rubber bullet in the leg.

Shortly after the demonstration began, a group of mainly female protesters split from the main demo and descended down a neighboring hill towards Nabi Saleh’s Al-Kaws spring, appropriated by Israel’s Halamish settlement in late 2009. In a feat that has not been achieved in months, protesters made it all the way to the main road along side the spring. Nine Israeli army jeeps intercepted the group of approximately 15 protesters, declaring the area to be a closed military area and threatening them multiple times with immediate arrest despite the fact that they were still located on Nabi Saleh territory.

Yesterday’s demonstration was held on the heels of what has been a rather sleepless past couple of weeks for village of Nabi Saleh its 550 residents. Israeli Occupation Forces have conducted nightly raids on the village almost every night over the past two weeks, searching homes and confiscating computers, cellphones, and personal documents.

Bilal Tamimi, a Nabi Saleh resident, captured the Israeli army’s Tuesday night raid of Bassem Tamimi’s home on film (see below).

Ma’an News Agency reported locals to have said that the soldiers have threatened to raid the village every night until the cease their campaign of popular resistance and weekly protests.

Amnesty Calls for the Immediate Release of Bassem Tamimi

By Popular Struggle Coordination Committee: 2 March 2012

In a statement released today, Amnesty International pronounced Palestinian protest organizer, Bassem Tamimi, a prisoner of conscience and called for his immediate and unconditional release from Israeli prison.

After nearly a year in Israeli jail, standing trial for charges pertaining to protest organizing in his west bank village of Nabi Saleh, Bassem Tamimi was named prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International. In its statement the organization called for Tamimi’s immediate and unconditional release. Tamimi’s next court hearing will take place this Sunday, March 5th, 10:30 AM at the Ofer Military Court.

See here for Amnesty’s full statement.

“Palestinian human rights defender Bassem Tamimi is a prisoner of conscience, detained solely for his role in organizing peaceful protests against the encroachment onto Palestinian lands by Israeli settlers, and should be released immediately and unconditionally”, Amnesty International said today.

“The Israeli army has repeatedly used excessive force in countering these demonstrations, as a result of which the organizers reiterate instructions for Palestinian demonstrators to adhere to non-violent methods. Occasionally, individual protestors have engaged in throwing stones at soldiers. One such protestor, Mustafa Tamimi, was shot in al-Nabi Saleh on 10 December 2011 by a high-velocity tear gas projectile fired at his head at close range from an Israeli military jeep. He died the next day in hospital”, the organization’s press release added.

Continue reading “Amnesty Calls for the Immediate Release of Bassem Tamimi”