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Court to hear appeals over jailed protest leader

Nov. 7, 2010 8:11 P.M. (Updated: Nov. 9, 2010 11:54 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- An Israeli court will hold two hearings this week regarding the case of Palestinian protest leader Abdallah Abu Rahmah, who was convicted in August on charges related to demonstrations in the West Bank village of Bil'in.

According to Rateb Abu Rahmah, a fellow member of the Bil'in Popular Committee, Israeli prosecutors will bring appeals in two cases against Abu Rahmah. On Wednesday the court will hear an appeal from prosecutors from a 2005 charge, and on Thursday a hearing will be held on an appeal in which Israel is seeking a harsher sentence against Abu Rahmah for two 2009 charges also related to his activism.

Abu Rahmah was convicted in August on charges of incitement and "participating in an illegal demonstration" for organizing weekly protest marches in Bil'in against Israel's construction of the illegal separation wall on village land.

Abu Rahmah was acquitted of two other charges: stone-throwing and a weapons-possession charge for collecting tear-gas canisters fired by Israeli soldiers at unarmed Palestinian demonstrators.

He was sentenced in October to 12 months in prison, plus 6 months suspended sentence and a fine of 5,000 shekels ($1,390). Israeli soldiers detained Abu Rahmah on 10 December 2010 during a late night raid on his home in Ramallah.

South African human right activist Archbishop Desmond Tutu called on Israel to overturn Abu Rahmah's conviction on behalf of the Elders, a group of international public figures brought together by Nelson Mandela. Members of the Elders, including Tutu, met with Abu Rahmah on their visit to Bil'in in 2009 prior to his arrest.

International human rights organizations including Amnesty International condemned Abu Rahmah's conviction as an assault on the right to freedom of expression. Human Rights Watch called the conviction "the unjust result of an unfair trial."
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