Israel convicts Palestinian protest leader (AP) Associated Press) By DIAA HADID OFER MILITARY BASE, West Bank 05/20/12)
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OFER MILITARY BASE, West Bank – An Israeli military court on Sunday
convicted a Palestinian protest leader of urging youths to throw
rocks at Israeli soldiers, ruling in a case that sparked
international criticism of Israeli practices in the West Bank.
Bassem al-Tamimi — a symbol of Palestinian opposition to Israeli
military rule praised by the European Union as a human rights
defender — was convicted largely because of a confession by a 15-year-
old interrogated without a lawyer.
The veteran activist has led weekly marches in his West Bank village
of Nabi Saleh to protest Jewish settlers seizing a nearby well for
their own use, mirroring other protests in rural Palestinian villages
against similar practices. Many of those protests turn into clashes
between stone-throwing youths and Israeli soldiers firing tear gas
and rubber bullets.
During Sunday´s session, two dozen European diplomats crowded into a
trailer-like court room at the Ofer military detention center. Al-
Tamimi was released on bail last month, after 13 months in detention,
and sat close to his wife, 35-year-old Nariman. She frequently rested
her head on his shoulder.
"I believe in the legitimacy of what I do," al-Tamimi said after the
verdict. "I lead peaceful protests," he said.
The London-based Amnesty International has called Tamimi a "prisoner
Tamimi is among several Palestinian protest leaders arrested in
recent years on charges of organizing what Israel defines as illegal
demonstrations. Rights groups criticize the arrests as an attempt to
stifle expression. Those cases have also relied on confessions
extracted from minor; rights groups say the interrogations are
Israeli officials say the interrogations are neccessary to quell
violence. They say Palestinians are offered fair trials.
In al-Tamimi´s case, evidence for his conviction was chiefly taken
from a confession by a relative, then-15-year-old Muatassim al-
Tamimi. He was arrested in January 2011, after being caught throwing
Two men interrogated him for about three hours. He was not allowed to
see a lawyer. His interrogator, speaking in broken, heavily accented
Arabic, shouts at the sleepy minor, according to an edited version of
the videotaped interrogation given to The Associated Press by
activists. Several times, an interrogator tells the minor he was
throwing stones at the behest of protest leaders, including al-
Tamimi, and urges him to agree.
The military judge in al-Tamimi´s case said Sunday she dropped more
serious charges of incitement and support for a hostile organization
that were based from the confessions of a 14-year-old, saying it was
riddled with inconsistencies. She also did not use the confession of
a young adult, saying interrogators misrepresented what he actually
The judge did not issue a sentencing date for al-Tamimi. (© 2012 The
Associated Press 05/20/12)
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