RAMALLAH, October 12 (JMCC) - Israel
’s military court Monday sentenced Palestinian community organizer Abdullah Abu Rahme to a year’s imprisonment for organizing demonstrations against the Wall
Israel constructed at Bilin
“Abu Rahme was given 12 months in prison, a six month suspended sentence if he re-offends, and a fine of 5,000 NIS,” says co-activist Jonathan Pollack.
Abu Rahme, who is head of the Popular Committee against the Wall in Bilin village, was arrested in a military night raid last year. He was arrested for stone-throwing and arms possession: collecting used tear-gas projectiles and bullet cases shot at demonstrators, with the intention of exhibiting them to show the violence used against demonstrators.
Those charges were dropped, but he was convicted of organizing illegal demonstrations and incitement.
“The sentence is lower than the prosecution asked for,” says his lawyer Gaby Lasky. Legal sources say they expect the prosecution to appeal for a stronger sentence.
“The prosecution asked the judge to make an example of Abdullah by giving him a harsh sentence in order to deter others [from taking part in the protests],” says Pollack who attended the hearings.
I think it is a very clear case of politically-motivated legal procession,” says Pollack. “It is an attempt by Israel to send a message that they will suppress popular struggle.
“[The Israeli government] hasn’t been able to stop it through violent means, so are finding a different way,” agrees Lasky.
The ongoing weekly demonstrations in Bilin are billed as non-violent and regularly attended by scores of Palestinian, Israeli and foreign activists.
The Wall near Bilin was in 2007 deemed illegal by Israel’s High Court of Justice. “The judge recorded the illegality of the wall at Bilin, as a factor that determined the length of the sentence,” said Libby Friedlander, director of international relations at the Association for Civil Rights in Israel.
Israel’s conviction of Rahme has received heavy criticism internationally. EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said the hearing “is intended to prevent him and other Palestinians from exercising their legitimate right to protest against the existence of the separation barrier in a non-violent manner.
The Spanish parliament, South African human right activist Archbishop Desmond Tutu, peacemaker award winner Luisa Morgantini and numerous human rights organizations including Amnesty International have also voiced their dissent.
Rahme was convicted using Military Order 101 that applies only to the occupied Palestinian territories. Under the order, influencing public opinion in a way that may disturb peace, “verbally or otherwise” is illegal.
“The law hasn’t been invoked since the first intifada,” says Lasky. “It is so broad that any journalist writing against the occupation can be considered.”
The Association for Civil Rights in Israel monitors issues of civil resistance and non-violent demonstrations. “Military Order 101, makes it impossible for any process to happen,” says Friedlander.
“The expectation then is that they won’t protest, and for us that is a violation of human rights.”