Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Hebron activist’s trial opens amid calls to drop “baseless and politically motivated charges”


By PM collaborators - November 23, 2016
TAGS:
Section: [Main News] [Life under Occupation]
Tags: [Occupation] [nonviolent resistance] [Hebron]

Issa Amro, a well-known Palestinian activist, is in court today as his long-awaited trial begins.
 
Amro, co-founder of the Hebron-based campaign group Youth Against Settlements, is charged on eighteen counts, the earliest relating to an incident from 2010. According to the court deposition, Amro’s charges include “obstructing a soldier” and “insulting a soldier.”

This second charge, dating from July 2013, specifies that “the defendant insulted a soldier or committed any other act to hurt his dignity or status as a soldier.”
 
According to the Israeli rights group B’Tselem, the number of crimes Amro is accused of reflect “the common [military] practice of filing inflated indictments, with a view of reaching a plea bargain with the defendant, whereby some charges will be stricken in exchange for the defendant pleading guilty to the rest.”
 
B’Tselem added that Amro’s trial reflects the Israeli policy of “[prohibiting] even non-violent protest activity, including actions that inside Israel would be considered legitimate.”
 
Because Palestinians in the occupied West Bank are subject to Israeli military law, the trial is taking place in the closed Ofer military court, near Ramallah.
 
Amro’s lawyer, Gaby Lasky, told Israeli newspaper Haaretz she was surprised her client “was released dozens of times over the years without any indictment, and suddenly an indictment is served that collects all the conduct for which he was released, [this] absolutely seems to be a matter of political persecution."
 
For his part, Amro stated to Haaretz that “I don’t think anyone can claim that my political activity is criminal. I spread a lot of video footage that embarrasses the authorities. They don’t want moderate Palestinians here who talk to diplomats about a two-state solution.”
 
Magdalena Mughrabi, Deputy Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International, said in a press release that Israel should drop “the baseless and politically motivated charges against Issa Amro.”
 
Amro’s current ordeal started on February 26 2016, when he was arrested while speaking to a tour group linked to Breaking The Silence, a campaign group of ex-Israeli soldiers that now highlights army violations against Palestinians.
 
Amro first came to prominence during the Second Intifada, when he organised a sit-in at the Palestine Polytechnic University, in Hebron, to protest the Israeli occupation of the campus. That campaign was a success, and the university was reopened six months after the protests began.
 
In 2009, Amro was awarded a One World Media award for his 'Shooting Back’ camera project – designed to capture abuses by Israeli forces and settlers in Hebron. Amro has been detained “more times than I remember,” with some of these arrests reportedly resulting in beatings.
 
Amro is perhaps most famous for his work in Youth Against Settlements, a grassroots group that resist the continued abuses by Israeli settlers in Hebron. The group’s most prominent campaign is 'Open Shuhada Street.’
 
The road was once the heart of Hebron’s old town, but was closed in 2009 following the arrival of extremist Jewish settlers to the area.
 
Hebron’s status as a divided city has long been a point of tension between Palestinians and Israelis. Several Palestinians have been killed there in attempted or alleged stabbing attacks, mostly against Israeli troops, in recent months. Hebron was also the site of the killing of a wounded and unarmed Palestinian by an Israeli soldier in March 2016, following an attempted attack, in what human rights organisations called an extrajudicial execution.

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