OFER MILITARY COURT (AFP) -- An Israeli military court formally charged two Palestinian women on Tuesday over their involvement in a peaceful demonstration in the West Bank last month.
In a hearing at Ofer military court near Ramallah, Nariman Tamimi, 37, and Rana Hamadah, 21, who also holds Canadian nationality, were charged with "entering a closed military zone" during a demonstration in Nabi Saleh, where villagers have been protesting since 2009 over the seizure of their lands by a nearby settlement.
Both pleaded not guilty.
According to Israeli rights group B'Tselem, the two were part of a group of around 25 people who participated in a peaceful demonstration on June 28 which was stopped by a group of Israeli soldiers and border police as they crossed a field near the village.
After a five minute standoff during which the forces informed them the area was a closed military zone, the group turned around and headed back towards the village, said B'Tselem's Sarit Michaeli, who was videoing the protest.
"A group of five or six of them were just walking back when suddenly they were stopped and three of them were arrested," she said.
The two women and a Spanish national were then driven around in the back of a jeep for most of the day, and taken to a police station around midnight.
Security forces released the Spanish woman but drove the other two to HaSharon, where they were held until late on Monday night, Michaeli said.
"This particular demonstration did not involve stone throwing," she told AFP, explaining that despite the peaceful nature of the protest, the military prosecution initially asked for the two to be held until the end of legal proceedings in a step she described as "disproportionate".
The court rejected the request, but a judge ruled that Tamimi, a mother of four who is married to veteran Nabi Saleh activist Bassem Tamimi, would be placed under house arrest every Friday. She is next due in court on September 3.
Hamadah, who is studying in Canada and is also facing obstruction charges after trying to prevent the forces from handcuffing her, was also barred from entering the village on a Friday. Her next hearing is on July 17.
"Usually the charge is violence or incitement to violence but in this case, there was no claim that they acted violently," Michaeli said. "This is using the system to try to stop these people from being active politically."
The arrest in 2011 of Tamimi's husband on charges of organizing illegal gatherings and incitement sparked international condemnation with the European Union recognizing him as a human rights defender, and Amnesty International declaring him a prisoner of conscience.
Almost all demonstrations in Palestine are defined as "illegal" under Israeli military law, which states that any gathering of 10 or more people requires a permit.