Friday, September 22, 2017

18 year student Lina Khattab held in custody for "throwing stones“


By Mona Martin - January 26, 2015
TAGS:
Section: [Main News] [Life under Occupation]
Tags: [Birzeit University] [Ofer prison]

 Birzeit University students protesting the arrest and detention of LIna Khattab.

The 18-year-old student, Lina Khattab, was arrested on 13 December 2014 during a march held by Birzeit University students near Israel’s Ofer military prison just outside of Ramallah in the West Bank.

Ever since her arrest, she has been held in Israeli custody at the HaSharon prison in the northern West Bank, where she is currently awaiting her sixth court hearing on the 26th January 2015.

Khattab is accused of “throwing stones” at Israeli Border Police and “participating in an unauthorized demonstration.” Her case is nothing unusual. What sets her case apart, however, is the fact that she has been kept in custody since her arrest in December. Usually someone like Lina, who is not overly involved politically, gets released on bail, according to a political activist in Ramallah familiar with the procedure from personal experience.

Lina is young. She enjoys singing, dancing dabke with the famous Palestinian dance group el-Founoun, and started pursuing a degree in journalism  last autumn. In December 2014 she joined a protest heading to Israel’s Ofer prison organized by Birzeit’s student branch of the Palestinian Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) to mark the anniversary of the party’s inception. The parking lot outside Ofer prison, which sits on the outskirts of Ramallah, is notorious for almost daily violent clashes between fully armed Israeli Border Police and rock slinging Palestinian youth. As Lina arrived to the protest, which had already turned into clashes, she fled from the teargas-filled parking lot with fellow students and hid behind a nearby house. Quickly after arriving though, she was jumped by a Border Policeman and detained.

Her first court hearing was set for three days after her arrest. The much hoped-for release, however, never came. Instead, her detention was prolonged until December 18 on suspicion of “throwing stones,” a charge often used in connection with Palestinians detained during demonstrations. 

What's puzzling, however, are some of the prosecutor's remarks. When stating the reasons for Lina's extended pre-trial imprisonment, she said, according to an activist present in court: “I can't release her now, as she would be treated as celebrity.” Witnesses in the courtroom told the Palestine Monitor the prosecutor’s remarks left the impression that the decision of whether or not to release Linah was not based on available evidence, or a lack thereof, but on the message her release might send to others.

The prosecutor then reportedly uttered his doubts as to why Lina should be treated differently than any other teenager arrested by the Israeli army. “When we told the prosecutor that Lina should be released on bail because she had university classes, he brought up cases of teenagers arrested in Jerusalem that were held in Israeli custody throughout their entire legal proceedings. 'Why should we treat Linah any differently?’ he asked,” related a witnesses at the hearing.  

Now Lina faces trial, closed to public, where, in light of past cases, her chances of release are even slimmer, as soldiers' statements are more strongly weighted than the voice of a protester accused of “throwing stones.” 

Activists and friends are in the process of launching a media campaign, hoping the increased public attention will help Lina Khattab in returning home soon. 

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