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Army court sentences protest leader to 1 year

Oct. 11, 2010 3:21 P.M. (Updated: Nov. 12, 2010 10:28 P.M.)
RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- An Israeli military court on Monday sentenced non-violent protest organizer Abdallah Abu Rahmah to 12 months imprisonment, with a six-month suspended sentence.

Abu Rahmah has been in an Israeli jail since December, and was convicted in August of incitement, and organizing and participating in protests in Bil'in. Ofer military court also ordered Abu Rahmah to pay a 5,000 shekel fine (almost $1,400).

At his hearing in August, the military prosecutor requested an exceptionally harsh sentencing in order to deter Abu Rahmah and to intimidate others, a statement from the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee said.

PSCC spokesman Jonathan Pollak said the committee would appeal the sentence.

Abu Rahmah is a coordinator of the Bil'in Popular Committee Against the Wall and Settlements. Weekly protests are held in Bil'in against confiscation of village land to build illegal Israeli settlements.

Israeli military law in the West Bank uses a much stricter definition of illegal assembly than Israeli civilian law, in practice forbidding more than 10 people from assembling without receiving a permit from the military.

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 concerns, acknowledged by the court, over their questioning.

The protest leader's detention was internationally condemned. EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said "The EU considers Abdallah Abu Rahmah to be a Human Rights Defender committed to non violent protest against the route of the Israeli separation barrier through his West Bank village of Bil'in."

The Intergroup for Palestine, an official body of the Spanish Parliament represented by all political parties, issued a statement expressing its "deep concern that Abdallah Abu Rahmah’s potential incarceration aims at preventing him and other Palestinians from exercising their legitimate right to protest against the existence of the Wall in a non violent manner."

Archbishop Desmond Tutu said he had been "very impressed" by Abu Rahmah's commitment to non-violence and wise leadership, and said "Israel's attempt to crack down on this effective resistance movement by criminalizing peaceful protest is unacceptable and unjust."

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

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