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'Hamas 3' convicted after Red Cross office sit-in

February 14, 2013 18:53

Court finds Hamas MPs guilty of illegally residing in Israel, terrorist membership after 569 day sit-in to protest their arrest.

from left to right: Khaled Abu-Arafeh, Ahmad Attoun, and Muhammad Totah give a press conference

Hamas 3. (photo credit:Melanie Lidman)

The Jerusalem District Court on Thursday convicted two Hamas politicians who were holed up for a year-and-a-half at the east Jerusalem office of the International Committee of the Red Cross office of membership in a terrorist organization and illegally residing in Israel.

The two men, Khaled Abu Arafa and Muhammad Totah, were arrested on January 23, 2012, after spending 569 days living in the Red Cross office in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood.

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Abu Arafa and Totah were elected to the Palestinian Legislative Council as representatives of Hamas in 2006.

The same day, then-interior minister Ronnie Bar-On revoked the men’s Jerusalem residency based on their membership in a terrorist organization.

After protracted court hearings as the politicians attempted to appeal the decision, the High Court of Justice denied them residency for the final time on June 20, 2010.

Fearing that their arrest and expulsion from Jerusalem was imminent, they informed the Red Cross that they wished to hold a sit-in protest on the premises to draw attention to their situation.

Their sit-in at the Red Cross compound began on July 1, 2010.

Hamas MP Ahmad Attoun also spent nearly 16 months in the Red Cross office with them but was arrested separately. Attoun, Abu Arafa and Totah held blue identification cards, which gave them Israeli residency but not citizenship.

The Red Cross denied at the time that it offered the politicians a haven.

The organization provided the politicians with a room inside the building where they could sleep and keep their belongings, a bathroom, electricity for their large protest tent, and a water cooler. Family members came daily to bring food and clothes.

Cecilia Goin, the Red Cross’s spokeswoman for Israel and the Palestinian territories, told The Jerusalem Post last year that the organization immediately made the police aware that the three men were staying on its property.

The Red Cross does not have diplomatic immunity, but police refrained from entering the compound.

According to the indictment, the men held frequent strategy meetings with other Hamas politicians and met with international leaders, distributed propaganda and held regular Friday prayers with large crowds at their protest tent, erected in the courtyard of the Red Cross building.
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