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Bil'in protest leader indicted over spent tear gas canisters

Dec. 23, 2009 11:42 A.M. (Updated: Dec. 24, 2009 11:41 P.M.)
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Israeli prosecutors filed an indictment in a military court against Abdullah Abu Rahmah on Monday, a leader of popular demonstrations against the Israeli separation wall in the West Bank village of Bil’in.

The charges against Abu Rahmah included incitement, stone throwing and arms possession, according to his attorney, Gaby Lasky. The arms referred to in the indictment were spent tear gas canisters fired by the Israeli army at protesters over four years of weekly demonstrations.

“The army shoots at unarmed demonstrators, and when they try to show the world the violence used against them by collecting presenting the remnants – they are persecuted and prosecuted,” Lasky said in a statement.

“What's next? Charging protesters money for the bullets shot at them?”

Abu Rahmah is the coordinator of Bil’in’s Popular Committee, the body that organizes weekly demonstrations against the wall, which Israel is building across the village’s land.

In 2007 the Israeli Supreme Court ordered the military to move the barrier surrounding the village so it did not cut though locally owned agricultural land, but the decision was never implemented. The International Court of Justice also ruled the wall illegal in 2004.

Abu Rahmah was seized by Israeli soldiers from his Ramallah home on 10 December and remains in prison.

Anti-occupation campaigners say the arrest was part of a wave of repression aimed at popular resistance movements like the Friday demonstrations against the wall and illegal settlements.

Israel has charged numerous grassroots organizers with both stone throwing and incitement. In at least one case, that of Mohammed Khatib from Bil'in, the court found evidence presented on a stone-throwing charge to be falsified, according to a statement from the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee.

It emerged on Sunday that another prominent campaigner, Jamal Juma of the Stop the Wall Campaign, had been arrested. He was charged in a Jerusalem court on Monday with suspicion of incitement.
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