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Israel indicts Palestinian astrophysicist despite Thursday decision to free him

May 29, 2016 8:39 P.M. (Updated: June 7, 2016 12:31 P.M.)
RAMALLAH (Ma’an) -- Palestinian professor and astrophysicist Imad Barghouthi is facing charges of “incitement” by Israeli authorities, despite a decision Thursday by the Israeli military appeals court to release him from custody due to lack of sufficient evidence, according to the Palestinian Prisoner’s Society (PPS).

In a statement released by PPS on Sunday, the group said Israeli military prosecution submitted the indictment to the military court, accusing Barghouthi of incitement against Israel on Facebook.

Earlier on Sunday, the statement added, Israeli intelligence questioned Barghouthi at Ofer prison, where he is being held under Israel’s notorious policy of administrative detention -- commonly used internment without charges or trial based on undisclosed evidence.

PPS senior lawyer Jawad Boulos described the decision to keep Barghouthi in custody as “extremely absurd” given the Israeli military prosecutor's announcement at Thursday’s court hearing that there was not enough evidence to indict him.

The appeal presented to the Israeli court was signed by hundreds of scientists and academics from all over the world demanding Barghouthi’s release. A similar petition signed by academics was submitted to Israeli courts during the imprisoned professor’s court hearing earlier in May.

The defense appeal overturned the court’s previous sentence to two months in administrative detention, which followed an initial verdict of three months in prison.

The reversal of the Israeli authorities’ decision to release Barghouthi, Boulos added, “again” proved, “to those who still look for proof, that all the legal procedures by the (Israeli) occupation forces -- namely the military prosecution -- are trivial and illusionary, and pay no attention to legal rules.”

He reiterated that such a procedure was meant only “to suppress the Palestinians by all means of deception.”

News of the Israeli military court’s latest decision regarding Barghouthi came after prominent Israeli human rights organization B'Tselem announced on Wednesday that it was discontinuing its strategy of holding Israel accountable for its crimes against Palestinians through internal military mechanisms.

“B’Tselem has gradually come to the realization that the way in which the military law enforcement system functions precludes it from the very outset from achieving justice for the victims. Nonetheless, the very fact that the system exists serves to convey a semblance of law enforcement and justice,” the report stated.

Barghouthi, who comes from the village of Beit Rima in the Ramallah district, was detained by Israeli forces in late April at the Nabi Saleh checkpoint in the occupied West Bank.

The scientist had previously been detained for a month and a half in late 2014 before being released amid uproar in the international scientific community. His lawyer said at the time that Barghouthi’s detention was due to his stance on the devastating Israeli offensive on the Gaza Strip earlier that year, which killed some 2,200 Palestinians.

In recent months, Israel has detained scores of Palestinians for social media activity, alleging that a wave of unrest that swept the occupied Palestinian territory last October was encouraged largely by Palestinian "incitement."

Palestinians have instead pointed chiefly to the frustration and despair brought on by Israel's nearly 50-year military occupation of the Palestinian territory and the absence of a political horizon.

According to prisoners’ organization Addameer, there are 7,000 Palestinians held in Israeli custody, including 750 held in administrative detention.
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