Barakei assualt trial opens in TA

Arab-Israeli lawmaker vows to "refute the charges against me one by one."

Muhmmad Barakei 311 (photo credit: Knesset Web site )
Muhmmad Barakei 311
(photo credit: Knesset Web site )
The trial of Hadash chairman Muhmmad Barakei opened Wednesday at the Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court.
Barakei is charged with assaulting policemen during protests againstthe West Bank security barrier at Bil'in on four occasions between2004-2007.
He is also charged with threatening a police officer, who was attempting to restrain protesters at the time.
At the start of the trial, the Arab-Israeli lawmaker vowed to "refute the charges against me one by one."
“Those using violence at demonstrations and impinging upon freedom ofprotest and expression are the police and security apparatuses,” hecontinued. “There was proof of this only last week when the High Courtwas forced to intervene in order to allow a demonstration in SheikhJarrah."
"My indictment has a political stench," the Hadash chairman went on. "It’s not a case against oneindividual but an attempt to instill fear and deterrence in everyonewho wants to exercise his/her democratic right to oppose the government’spolicies.”
Thevillage of Bil'in, west of Ramallah, is a weekly flash-point for Arabs,left-wing activists, anarchists and others who protest against thesecurity barrier.
Barakei chose not to use his parliamentary immunity, but instead to fight for his innocence in a court of law.
Barakei’s Hadash colleagues and others staged a demonstration in his support of outside the court on Wednesday.
MKs Hanna Sweid, Dov Henin and Afo Agbaria were among those in attendance.
Henin called the indictment “a severe measure against freedom of protest and expression.”
"Itis yet another link in the worrying and dangerous process ofrestricting democratic capacity," he said. "What started with the ArabMKs is spreading to human rights groups and peace activists. It’s timeto set up a broad front to protect democracy."