The Guardian
January 12, 2011 - 1:00am

West Bank protester Abdallah Abu Rahmah is facing a further three months in prison after the Israeli military court of appeal today extended his sentence.

Abu Rahmah, a leader of protests against Israel's separation barrier in the village of Bil'in, was convicted in August of incitement and organising illegal demonstrations. This was criticised by Cathy Ashton, the EU foreign policy chief, who described him as a "human rights defender committed to non-violent protest against the route of the Israeli separation barrier".

Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa also condemned the conviction.

Abu Rahmah was due to be released in November, but military prosecutors argued for him to be detained until their appeal for a longer sentence could be heard. They wanted him to serve two years "as a deterrence not only to [Abu Rahmah] himself, but also to others who may follow in his footsteps".

Today the judge extended the sentence to 16 months, of which Abu Rahmah has served 13.

Diplomatic representatives from seven European countries - including the UK - as well as the European Union were present in court today.

Abu Rahmah, the coordinator of the Bil'in Popular Committee Against the Wall and Settlements, was arrested in December 2009, and was sentenced to 12 months last October after an eight month military trial. He was cleared of stone throwing and possession of arms.

Bil'in is the village where a Palestinian woman, Jawaher Abu Rahmah, died 10 days ago after Israeli soldiers fired tear gas at protesters. Her brother, Bassem, was killed in April 2009 when he was hit by a tear gas cannister.

The village protests, which have involved Israeli and international activists as well as locals, against the route of the separation barrier in the West Bank have often included stone-throwing by youths, which the military counter with teargas and rubber bullets.

Menawhile, Israeli activist Jonathan Pollack began a three month prison sentence today after being of illegal gathering during a bicycle protest in Tel Aviv two years ago over the blockade of Gaza. His conviction activated an earlier suspended sentence.

Pollack has regularly attended the protests in Bil'in.


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