Four months ago, human rights activist Murad Shtaiwi was arrested by Israeli forces during a night raid in the occupied West Bank village of Kufr Qaddoum. Four months later, he remains in military detention.
Shtaiwi is a prominent member of the Kufr Qaddoum Popular Committee, which has been organizing weekly demonstrations against the Israeli occupation since 2011. One of the charges against him is participating in and organizing “unauthorized” demonstrations. The maximum sentence for this charge is ten years imprisonment.
Ever since he was placed under detention on 29 April, Shtaiwi has been denied the right to a fair trial. On 9 July, an Israeli military court postponed a hearing in his case for six weeks, without giving any explanation.
That hearing eventually took place on Wednesday this week. During it, one of the charges against Shtaiwi — that of throwing stones — was dropped. The next hearing in his case is scheduled to take place in the second week of September.
Addameer, a Palestinian organization providing support to political prisoners, and the London-based Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights have filed a complaint with the United Nations over his treatment. The two groups expressed concern about how he had been charged under Israel’s Military Order No. 11.
Enforced since 1967, that order places draconian restrictions on protests by Palestinians.
Established in 1976, the settlement has grown considerably. Today, it surrounds Kufr Qaddoum on five hilltops.
In 2003, Israeli forces closed Kufr Qaddoum’s main road which links the village to the city of Nablus and passes through Kedumim. As a result, villagers have to take a different road to Nablus. A 13-kilometer straight journey to Nablus turned into a 26-kilometer detour through a busy West Bank artery, Shtaiwi told The Electronic Intifada three years ago.
“Give us our rights and we will not go for demonstrations. Leave our land and we will not go to demonstrations,” Shtaiwi said.
Shtaiwi has been continuously persecuted for the stance he has taken.
He was also arrested in March 2012, after a dog belonging to the Israeli military attacked his nephew during a demonstration. A video with shocking images shows Shtaiwi defending his nephew Ahmad.
In it, Shtaiwi calls on Israeli soldiers to order their dog to stop attacking his nephew. The soldiers responded by spraying Shtaiwi in the face with pepper spray and arresting him. Shtaiwi was released after paying bail of around $1,500 and was not charged. In December 2013, Shtaiwi was assaulted and arrested again during a demonstration in Kufr Qaddum. He was released four days later after paying bail of around $1,500. He was not questioned during that detention and was not charged.
Moreover, Shtaiwi has been injured several times because of the violent behavior of Israeli forces. A tear gas canister fired by Israeli forces hit him directly in the leg during a demonstration in September 2013. He was treated in hospital for a broken leg. Then, in February this year, Shtaiwi was arrested, detained and interrogated for six and half hours. Shtaiwi has stated that two soldiers who interrogated him on that occasion tried to pressure him into ceasing his work as a human rights defender.
The soldiers lectured him for a long time, telling him that he “can stop the demonstrations” and that he was “influential” in his village. He also spoke of how he has faced regular intimidation at Israeli military checkpoints and how he has house had been attacked by Israeli forces, using tear gas.
On one occasion — in April 2012 — Israeli soldiers threatened to arrest his son, Momen, alleging that Momen had used a slingshot against them. Momen was aged two-and-a-half at the time.
Pointing weapons at his family, the soldiers ordered Momen to hand over the slingshot in question.
The military court system to which Shtaiwi is subject denies Palestinians the right to a fair trial. Shtaiwi is one of numerous detainees to be deprived of basic rights by this system.