Nabi Saleh demonstration 390.
(photo credit: YouTube screenshot)
A military court on Tuesday sentenced Palestinian activist Bassem Tamimi to 13
months of time he already served in prison and an additional 17 months of a
suspended sentence, for his role in planning the weekly Friday demonstrations in
the West Bank Palestinian village of Nabi Salih. He must also pay a NIS 7,000
The court, which issued its verdict on the case on May 20, also
convicted Tamimi, 45, of “soliciting” other activists to throw stones at IDF
soldiers as they attempted to disperse the weekly rallies.
first arrested in March 2011 and held in prison until April, when he was
released for humanitarian reasons – to care for his mother who had had a stroke
and was partially paralyzed. But he was confined to Ramallah and placed
under partial house arrest there.
The military court on Tuesday said
Tamimi had effectively served his prison sentence, but should he engage in
similar violations in the next five years, he would be jailed for 17
Since his arrest, Tamimi admitted to organizing and participating
in the rallies, but insisted he was innocent of all charges that involved
The international community, which pays increasing attention to
the Nabi Salih rallies, has picked up Tamimi’s cause. Amnesty International in
March pronounced him a prisoner of conscience.
Last week, EU foreign
policy chief Catherine Ashton criticized his conviction.
Her office said
in a statement, “The EU considers Bassem Tamimi to be a ‘human rights defender’
committed to non-violent protest against the expansion of an Israeli settlement
on lands belonging to his West Bank village of Nabi Salih.”
attended all court hearings in his case and is concerned at the use of evidence
based on the testimony of a minor who was interrogated in violation of his
rights,” the statement continued.
“The EU believes that everyone should
be able to exercise their legitimate right to protest in a non-violent manner,”
But in sentencing Tamimi, the military court said his offenses
were serious. In particular, it charged that he influenced activists, including
minors, to throw stones at IDF soldiers and in some cases provided them with
information as to the soldiers’ locations over cellphones, so they could more
effectively aim the stones.
The court said his sentence took into account
the 12- month prison sentence imposed last year on his cousin Naji Tamimi, who
was arrested at the same time and pled guilty to more serious offenses. The
court said it could not impose a significantly harsher sentence when Bassem
Tamimi had committed lesser offenses.
Bassem Tamimi had initially been
charged with more serious offenses including incitement, and rejected the option
of a plea bargain.
Most of the charges were dropped during the course of
the trial, according to Jonathan Pollak, a spokesman for the Popular Struggle
Coordination Committee, of which Tamimi is a member.
Upon hearing the
sentence, Tamimi said, “The military court, being an instrument of occupation,
sent a clear message today that Palestinian political prisoners are better off
confessing to what they have not done than going to trial.”
acquitted of the bulk of the indictment against me, but served more time than my
friend – who chose to plead guilty to all the charges in a plea bargain,” he
continued. “Had I confessed to what I was not convicted of, I could have
returned to my family earlier.”
Tamimi was initially charged based on
information from an interrogation of three witnesses aged 14, 15 and 19, who had
been arrested. The court found two of the testimonies to be
The Popular Struggle Coordination Committee argued on Tuesday
that Tamimi should have been acquitted. It alleged that the testimony of
the 15-year-old witness was similarly suspect, because he believed he would be
treated more leniently if he implicated others.