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Palestinian activist fined for West Bank protest

Feb. 23, 2015 9:51 P.M. (Updated: Feb. 26, 2015 1:41 P.M.)
OFER MILITARY COURT (AFP) -- An Israeli military court on Monday handed a prominent Palestinian activist a four-month suspended sentence for "interfering" with the work of the army in the West Bank, he told AFP.

Abdullah Abu Rahma has been repeatedly arrested by the Israeli military for organizing weekly demonstrations against Israel's separation barrier in the village of Bilin.

He was sentenced at Ofer military court near the West Bank city of Ramallah after being convicted in October of "interfering with the work of a soldier."

Speaking to AFP, Abu Rahma said the court had handed him a four-month sentence suspended for three years which would be activated immediately if he took part "in any demonstrations or blocked any army activity."

He was also given a 5,000-shekel fine ($1,300) which must be paid by April 26 or he would face a separate four-month jail term which would be effective immediately, he said.

Abu Rahma's conviction relates to an incident in May 2012 when he blocked a tractor which was trying to set up a temporary concrete barricade ahead of annual Nakba or "catastrophe" protests, mourning Israel's ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from their lands in 1948.

"This is a political ruling," he said, vowing that it would not stop his protest activity.

"We will continue our struggle. On Friday, we have planned a demonstration to mark 10 years of activity in Bilin and I will be at the head of the march to say no to the occupation, no to the wall, and no to settlement activity," he said.

Abu Rahma was arrested in 2009 and spent 15 months behind bars for coordinating protests against the barrier in a move which prompted concern from human rights groups and from former EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.

A schoolteacher in his mid 40s, Abu Rahma is known for coordinating the grassroots, unarmed protest movement against the separation barrier in Bilin.

Israel began building what it calls its "security fence" in 2002 after a wave of Palestinian attacks.

But the Palestinians see it as a land grab of territory they want for a future state, referring to it as the "apartheid wall."
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