Ma'an News Agency
July 22, 2010 - 12:00am

A Palestinian protest organizer detained in 2005 and put on trial was sentenced Wednesday with a second trial pending, popular committee officials in Bil'in said.

A statement said Abdallah Abu Rahmah was sentenced to two months of imprisonment and a six-month suspended sentence while a five-year trial on a litany of charges including "activity against the public order," "obstructing a soldier in the line of duty," and "incitement."

A verdict in Abu Rahmah's main case for which he is already in jail since December is expected soon, organizers added.

The Bil'in popular committee said the most recent sentencing was based on "charges clearly related to freedom of speech" and "simply for participating in demonstrations," and alleged that no evidence of violence toward Israeli security forces was provided during the trial.

According to his supporters, all of the charges against Abu Rahmah were exaggerated, saying that the alleged act of obstructing an officer involved him "shouting at a police officer and refusing to leave the scene of a demonstration," and then for being outside his home when the military declared a curfew in the village.

On the charge of incitement, defined as “The attempt, verbal or otherwise, to influence public opinion in the Area in a way that may disturb the public peace or public order,” Abu Rahmah was convicted of inciting others to "continue advancing [to their lands during a demonstration in Bil'in], claiming that the land belongs to them," a statement said.

Protests that Abu Rahmah was involved in organizing in the village were against the construction of Israel's separation wall, which cuts off villagers from 49 percent of their ancestral lands used for farming and grazing.

In 2004 an Advisory Opinion was handed down by the International Court of Justice which held that the separation wall built inside the West Bank was illegal in its entirety and should be dismantled.

A decision by the Israeli High Court of Justice said the 2002 route of the wall could "not be explained but for the wish to include the [future] eastern part of [the settlement] Mattityahu East, to the west of the Fence, as it is otherwise doubtful that there exists a security military reason to lay the Fence's route where it is now." The decision called for a re-routing of the wall.

"The military court threads a dangerous path of criminalizing legitimate protest in the West Bank. Abu Rahmah was arrested, prosecuted and sentenced with the clear intention of sending a message that the Palestinian struggle, even when of civic nature, will not be tolerated," Abu Rahmah's lawyer Gaby Lasky commented following the sentencing hearing.

Speaking for the Bil'in popular committee, Mohammed Khatib said that "In my village we learned that when we fight for our rights, when we expose what is being done to us, we can achieve victories, and indeed the path of the Wall is now being moved."

He says Israel "is trying to intimidate us, to dissuade from fighting for our rights - but what other options do we have? Both the Wall and the settlements on our lands are built in contradiction of international law and even of Israeli law, but it is us that end up in jail."


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