Palestinian activist dismisses case against him as ´fiction´ (AFP) AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE) 02/19/12)
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A Palestinian villager who is on trial for organising popular
protests in the West Bank told a court on Sunday that the charges
against him were "fiction."
Bassem Tamimi was arrested in March 24 last year and accused of
organising illegal demonstrations and incitement to stone-throwing in
connection with a series of weekly protests in Nabi Saleh against the
takeover of village land by Jewish settlers.
On Sunday, Tamimi, whose arrest sparked international condemnation,
took the stand for the first time since his arrest, telling Ofer
military court that his arrest was a bid to stamp out peaceful
popular protest against the occupation.
"This indictment has absolutely no basis in reality and I have
nothing to do with the charges against me," said Tamimi, who was last
year recognised by the European Union as a human rights defender.
On the night he was arrested, his interrogators said they would show
him pictures incriminating him, but they never did.
"That proved to me that the whole thing was just based on a lie, that
the whole case was invented and there isn´t a shred of evidence to
prove that I´m guilty," he said. "It was clear to me that all they
wanted was a confession."
The weekly protests in Nabi Saleh began at the end of 2009, following
a years-long legal battle with residents of the nearby settlement of
Halamish who in 2001 seized around 240 acres (100 hectares) of the
villagers´ land, he told the court.
Although an Israeli court ruled in their favour, the settlers
continued to prevent the villagers from accessing their land and also
took control of a nearby spring.
One Friday in late 2009, the villagers began walking with the farmers
towards their land to help them cultivate it, but were prevented from
getting there by both settlers and the army, Tamimi said.
"Before we reached the confiscated land and the spring, the settlers
started assaulting us, throwing stones and shooting at us. Many
people were injured by the army who shot rubber bullets, tear gas and
concussion grenades," he said.
It soon became a Friday afternoon tradition, with the villagers
routinely trying to go down and cultivate the land, and finding
themselves blocked by the army.
"Every time we try to help them work the land, before we reach it,
they disperse us using rubber bullets, tear gas and using excessive
force. This is what happens every Friday," he said.
The Israeli military claims the demonstrations are illegal, but
Tamimi said the right to peaceful protest is enshrined in
"International law gives us the right to peaceful protest, to
demonstrate our refusal of the policies that hurt us in our daily
life," he said, describing the protests as "civilian in nature,
"There is no one in charge of what happens there... no need for
anyone to train people in stone throwing," he said. "You don´t need
to hand out stones or give orders for that to happen."
Figures provided by the grassroots Popular Struggle Coordination
Committee indicate that between January 2010 and April 2011, the army
arrested 73 people, one in four of them minors -- or more 10 percent
of Nabi Saleh´s population of 550.
The military prosecution´s case against Tamimi is largely based on
the testimony of two teenage boys aged 14 and 15, although activists
say their interrogation was fundamentally flawed and violated many of
their rights as minors.
Almost all demonstrations in the Palestinian territories are defined
as "illegal" under Israeli military law, which states that any
gathering of 10 or more people requires a permit.
According to the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) the
ban on demonstrations and the forced dispersal of peaceful protests
represent "a clear violation of the rules of international law that
are incumbent on the occupying power." (Copyright © 2012 Agence
France Presse. 02/19/12)
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