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Palestinians, including minors sentenced to prison for throwing rocks, Molotov cocktails

Sept. 28, 2016 9:14 P.M. (Updated: Sept. 29, 2016 12:49 P.M.)
(AFP/Jaafar Ashtiye, File)
JERUSALEM (Ma’an) -- Israeli courts sentenced four Palestinian residents of occupied East Jerusalem -- including two minors -- to prison on Wednesday for throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails.

Head of the Jerusalem Committee for Families of Prisoners Amjad Abu Asab said that the Israeli Central Court sentenced 19-year-old Basil Ahmad Tawfiq Qutub to 80 months in prison -- more than six and a half years -- and ordered him to pay a fine of 80,000 shekels ($21,304); and 20-year-old Muhammad Hussam Qirsh to four years in prison with a fine of 40,000 shekels ($10,652).

The two were detained together last year, and stand accused of throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails at Israeli settlers near the occupied East Jerusalem neighborhood of Beit Hanina.

Abu Asab also said that Israeli Magistrate’s Court sentenced 15-year-old Zakariya Bakri and 14-year-old Nabil Seder, both from Jerusalem’s Old City, each to five months in prison and a fine of 3,000 shekels ($798) each.

The sentences came amid an ongoing crackdown on Palestinian youth and children by Israeli police in East Jerusalem, as Palestinian communities in the occupied city have begun to feel the impact of Israeli legislation passed between 2014 and 2015 increasing penalties for rock throwing, which allows for stone-throwers to receive a 20-year prison sentence where intent to harm could be proven, and 10 years where it could not.

Rights group Defense for Children International - Palestine (DCIP) cited in July a number of recent cases of Palestinian minors being handed prison sentences for periods ranging between 12 to 39 months, with up to three years’ probation.

The widespread arrests has also put a spotlight on the well-documented abuse of Palestinian children by Israeli forces and the harsh interrogation practices used to force their confessions, which has long been the target of criticism by the international community.

Despite “on paper” having more rights than Palestinian children in the occupied West Bank who are subject to a draconian military detention system, in practice, Jerusalemites “do not enjoy their enshrined rights” under the Israeli civilian court system, according to DCIP.

Out of 65 cases documented by DCIP in 2015, "more than a third of Jerusalem youth were arrested at night (38.5 percent), the vast majority (87.7 percent) were restrained during arrest, and only a slim minority of children (10.8 percent) had a parent or lawyer present during interrogation."

According to affidavits taken by DCIP for the report documenting the recent arrests and sentencing of Palestinian minors for rock throwing, two of the teenagers “both had maintained their innocence and confessed only after they had experienced physical and psychological abuse."

Ayed Abu Eqtaish, Accountability Program director at DCIP was quoted in the report as saying: “The changes in the penal code and policy guidelines since 2014 are discriminatory and target Palestinians, specifically youth. Israel is a signatory to the Convention of the Rights of the Child and we call on them to uphold their responsibilities.”

Interrogations of Palestinian children can last up to 90 days according to prisoners’ rights group Addameer, during which in addition to being beaten and threatened, cases of sexual assault and placement in solitary confinement to elicit confessions are also often reported, while confession documents they are forced to sign are in Hebrew -- a language most Palestinian children do not speak.

Separately, Abu Asab reported that Israeli forces detained Hani Ghaith on Wednesday at the entrance of the al-Thawri neighborhood in Silwan, hours after he was released from Israeli custody.

Ghaith was detained in November 2014 in connection to events that followed the killing of Muataz Hijazi, who attempted to assassinate right-wing Israeli activist and member of the Israeli parliament Yehuda Glick in October 2014. Hijazi was shot dead on the roof of his home by Israeli forces hours after the attempt.

Israeli forces also detained Medhat Khalil on Wednesday. He was working as a security guard at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound.

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