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After jail sentence, Bassem Tamimi declared prisoner of conscience

Nov. 8, 2012 1:46 A.M. (Updated: Nov. 23, 2012 2:23 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Palestinian activist Bassem Tamimi, who has been sentenced to four months in prison in a plea bargain with an Israeli court, is a prisoner of conscience and should be released, Amnesty International said on Wednesday.

Tamimi was detained on Oct. 24 during a protest at an Israeli supermarket in a Jewish settlement near Ramallah.

Ofer military court sentenced him to four months in prison and fined him 5,000 shekels ($1,280) in a plea bargain on Tuesday, Amnesty said.

He was charged with "participation in an unlicensed demonstration." Another charge of assaulting police was downgraded to "interference with the work of a police officer," after a video showed Tamimi non-violently trying to prevent the arrest of his wife, Nariman, the rights group said.

"Bassem Tamimi has a long record of peaceful protest, and this court hearing showed that even the military prosecution has acknowledged he did not use or advocate violence at the demonstration," Amnesty's Mideast director Philip Luther said.

"He is a prisoner of conscience who must be released immediately and unconditionally."

Tamimi is a well-known leader of non-violent protest in his village of Nabi Saleh, which holds weekly demonstrations against settlement.

He was released from jail in May after serving 13 months for taking part in demonstrations and solicitation to throw stones. The verdict was criticized by human rights groups and the EU foreign policy chief.

Amnesty noted that ‘Military Order 101’ in force in the West Bank requires all gatherings of 10 or more people, "for a political purpose or a matter that could be interpreted as political," to get permission from a military commander or face a maximum 10-year sentence.

"Bassem Tamimi was forced into making a plea bargain because, through the mere act of non-violent protest, he was breaking this unjust law and would therefore have faced a lengthy period of house arrest or detention awaiting trial," Luther said.

"Instead of criminalizing peaceful protest, the Israeli authorities need to ensure that Palestinians’ rights to peaceful expression and assembly are respected.”

The rights group noted that on the same day that Tamimi was sentenced for protesting against settlements, Israel announced tenders to build 1,213 settler homes in occupied East Jerusalem, in contravention of international law.
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