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


May 29, 2012 - 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... 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."...


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

Tamimi was slapped with a longer imprisonment period than his alleged accomplice, who was convicted of more serious offenses.

May 29, 2012

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.

Legal background
On March 24th, 2011, a massive contingent of Israeli Soldiers raided the Tamimi home at around noon, only minutes after he entered the house to prepare for a meeting with a European diplomat. He was arrested and subsequently charged.

The main evidence in Tamimi's case is the testimony of 14 year-old Islam Dar Ayyoub, also from Nabi Saleh, who was taken 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", charged with different responsibilities during the demonstrations: some were allegedly in charge of stone-throwing, others 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 proven that his interrogation was fundamentally flawed and violated the rights set forth in the Israeli Youth Law in the following ways:

  1. The boy was arrested at gunpoint in the dead of night, during a violent military raid on his house.
  2. Despite being a minor, he was denied sleep in the period between his arrest and questioning, which began the following morning and lasted over 5 hours.
  3. Despite being told he would be allowed to see a lawyer, he was denied legal counsel, although his lawyer appeared at the police station requesting to see him.
  4. He was denied his right to have a parent present during his questioning. The testimony of one of his interrogators before the court suggests that he believes Palestinian minors do not enjoy this right.
  5. He was not informed of his right to remain silent, and was even told by his interrogators that he "must tell of everything that happened."
  6. Only one of four interrogators who participated in the questioning was a qualified youth interrogator.

The audio-visual recording of another central witness against Tamimi, 15 year-old Mo'atasem Tamimi, proves that he too was questioned in a similarly unlawful manner.

The audio-visual recording of another central witness against Tamimi, 15 year-old Mo'atasem Tamimi, proves that he too was questioned in a similarly unlawful manner and was led to believe that implicating others, may earn him a more lenient treatment. 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?"

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.

Since the beginning of the village's struggle against settler takeover of their lands in December of 2009, the army has conducted more than 80 protest related arrests. As the entire village numbers just over 500 residents, the number constitutes approximately 10% of its population.

On March 2nd, 2012, Amnesty International pronounced Tamimi a prisoner of conscience and called for his immediate and unconditional release from Israeli prison.

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

In a recent, nearly identical case, 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 on 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, Catherin 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, whichdeclared Abu Rahmah a prisoner of conscience.

Personal Background
Bassem Tamimi is a veteran Palestinian grassroots activist from the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh, north of Ramallah. He is married to Nariman Tamimi, with whom he fathers four children - Wa’ed (14), Ahed (10), Mohammed (8) and Salam (5).

As a veteran activist, Tamimi has been arrested by the Israeli army 11 times to date, though he was never convicted of any offense. Tamimi spent roughly three years in administrative detention, with no charges brought against him. Furthermore, his attorney and he were denied access to "secret evidence" brought against him.

In 1993, Tamimi was falsely arrested on suspicion of having murdered an Israeli settler in Beit El - an allegation of which he was cleared of entirely. During his weeks-long interrogation, he was severely tortured by the Israeli Shin Bet in order to draw a coerced confession from him. During his interrogation, and as a result of the torture he underwent, Tamimi collapsed and had to be evacuated to a hospital, where he laid unconscious for seven days. As a result of the wounds caused by torture, Tamimi was partially paralyzed for several months after his release from the hospital.

At the opening of his trial on June 5th, Tamimi pleaded "not guilty" to all charges against him, but proudly owned up to organizing protest in the village. In a defiant speech before the court he said, "I organized these peaceful demonstrations to defend our land and our people." Tamimi also challenged the legitimacy of the very system which trys him, saying that "Despite claiming to be the only democracy in the Middle East you are trying me under military laws [...] that are enacted by authorities which I haven't elected and do not represent me." (See here for Tamimi's full statement).

The indictment against Tamimi is based on questionable and coerced confessions of youth from the village. He is charged with' incitement', 'organizing and participating in unauthorized processions',' solicitation to stone-throwing', 'failure to attend legal summons', and a scandalous charge of 'disruption of legal proceedings', for allegedly giving youth advice on how to act during police interrogation in the event that they are arrested.

The transcript of Tamimi's police interrogation further demonstrates the police and Military Prosecution's political motivation and disregard for suspects' rights. During his questioning, Tamimi was accused by his interrogator of "consulting lawyers and foreigners to prepare for his interrogation", an act that is clearly protected under the right to seek legal counsel.

As one of the organizers of the Nabi Saleh protests and coordinator of the village's popular committee, Tamimi has been the target of harsh treatment by the Israeli army. Since demonstrations began in the village, his house has been raided and ransacked numerous times, his wife was twice arrested and two of his sons were injured; Wa'ed, 14, was hospitalized for five days when a rubber-coated bullet penetrated his leg and Mohammed, 8, was injured by a tear-gas projectile that was shot directly at him and hit him in the shoulder. Shortly after demonstrations in the village began, the Israeli Civil Administration served ten demolition orders to structures located in Area C, Tamimi's house was one of them, despite the fact that part of the house was built in 1965 and the rest in 2005.



:: Article nr. 88467 sent on 30-may-2012 21:50 ECT

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