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Military court convicts anti-wall leader

Aug. 24, 2010 8:20 P.M. (Updated: Aug. 26, 2010 11:20 A.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- An Israeli military court on Tuesday found the leader of a West Bank protest movement guilty of incitement and organizing illegal demonstrations.

Abdallah Abu Rahmah of Bil'in, near Ramallah, could face jail time for his leadership in the popular campaign against Israel's wall, which severs the West Bank village for to protect nearby settlements.

The verdict was read in a military courtroom packed with friends, supporters, and family members, concluding an eight-month trial. Diplomats from Europe including a representative of the European Union attended.

According to his supporters, Abu Rahmah's conviction was based only on testimonies of minors who were arrested in the middle of the night and denied legal counsel despite significant ills in their questioning.

The court threw out two charges, stone-throwing and arms possession, activists said. The arms charge was over Abu Rahmah's collection of used tear-gas projectiles and bullet cases, the indictment said.

"This absurd charge is a clear example of how eager the military prosecution is to use legal procedures as a tool to silence and smear unarmed dissent," the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee said in a statement.

Abu Rahmah's case was the first time the prosecution had used the organizing and participating in illegal demonstrations since the First Intifada, the committee said.

Military law defines illegal assembly in a much stricter way than does Israeli civilian law, in practice forbidding more than 10 people from assembling without receiving a permit from the military.

Abu Rahmah was detained in December during a night raid, but he "did not find himself behind bars because he is a dangerous man," the committee insisted.

"Abdallah, who is amongst the leaders of the Palestinian village of Bil'in, is viewed as a threat for his work in the five-year unarmed struggle to save the village's land from Israel's wall and expanding settlements."

Abdallah is the recipient of the the Carl Von Ossietzky Medal for Outstanding Service in the Realization of Basic Human Rights, which awarded by the International League for Human Rights in Berlin.
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