Palestinian activist Tamimi sentenced to 13 months

Military court sentences Tamimi to time he has already served, additional 17 months for weekly Nabi Saleh protests.

Nabi Saleh demonstration 390 (photo credit: YouTube screenshot)
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 fine.
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.
Tamimi was 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 months.
Since his arrest, Tamimi admitted to organizing and participating in the rallies, but insisted he was innocent of all charges that involved violence.
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.”
“The EU 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,” it said.
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.”
“I was 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 suspect.
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.