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.
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