Trial of grassroots activist Bassem Tamimi to begin Sunday

Popular resistance organizer Bassem Tamimi, from the occupied West Bank village of Nabi Saleh, will be put on trial in an Israeli military court this Sunday. Tamimi, who was recently profiled by Max Blumenthal for The Electronic Intifada, has been detained for two months after being arrested by Israeli soldiers who raided his home. According to journalist Joseph Dana, who has followed Tamimi’s case and the struggle in Nabi Saleh very closely:

Tamimi is charged with incitement, organizing unpermitted marches, solicitation to throw stones, disobeying the duty to report to questioning, and a scandalous obstruction of justice charge, for allegedly giving youth advice on how to act under interrogation by the police in the event that they are arrested.

The Palestinian Struggle Coordination Committee stated in a release on Thursday:

The main evidence in Tamimi’s case is the testimony of 14 year-old Islam Dar Ayyoub, also from Nabi Saleh, who was arrested from his bed at gunpoint on the night of January 23rd. In his interrogation the morning after his arrest, Islam alleged that Bassem and Naji Tamimi organized groups of youth into “brigades”, each with its own responsibility during the demonstrations: some are allegedly in charge of stone-throwing, some of blocking roads, etc.

During a trial-within-a-trial procedure in Islam’s trial, motioning for his testimony to be ruled inadmissible, it was proved that his interrogation was fundamentally flawed and violated the rights set forth in the Israeli Youth Law in the following ways:

1. Despite being a minor, he was questioned in the morning following his arrest, without being allowed any sleep.

2. He was denied legal consul even while his lawyer was present at the police station.

3. He was denied his right to have a parent present during his questioning.

4. He was not informed of his right to remain silent, and even told that he is “expected to tell the truth” by his interrogators.

5. It was acknowledged by the interrogators that only one of the four interrogators was qualified as a youth interrogator.

While the trial-within-a-trial procedure has not yet reached conclusion, the evidence already revealed has brought the Military Court of Appealsto revise its remand decision and order Islam’s release to house arrest.

Over the past two months, the army has arrested 24 of Nabi Saleh’s residents on protest related suspicions. Half of those arrested are minors, the youngest of whom is merely eleven.

Ever since the beginning of the village’s struggle against settler takeover of their lands in December of 2009, the army has conducted 71 arrests related to protest. As the entire village numbers just over 500 residents, the number constitutes approximately 10% of its population.

Tamimi’s arrest corresponds to the systematic arrest of protest leaders all around the West Bank, as in the case of the villages Bil’in and Ni’ilin.

Only recently the Military Court of Appeals has aggravated the sentence of Abdallah Abu Rahmah from the village of Bilin, sending him to 16 months imprisonment on charges of incitement and organizing illegal demonstrations. Abu Rahmah was released in March 2011.

The arrest and trial of Abu Rahmah has been widely condemned by the international community, most notably by Britain and EU foreign minister, Catherine Ashton. Harsh criticism of the arrest has also been offered by leading human rights organizations in Israel and around the world, among them B’Tselem, ACRI, as well as Human Rights Watch, which declared Abu Rahmah’s trial unfair, and Amnesty International, which declared Abu Rahmah a prisoner of conscience.

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Maureen Clare Murphy

Maureen Clare Murphy's picture

Maureen Clare Murphy is the managing editor of The Electronic Intifada and lives in Chicago.