LONDON, March 3, 2012 (WAFA) – The London-based Amnesty International (AI) Friday called for the immediate release of Basem Tamimi, a civic activist from the Ramallah area village of Nabi Saleh, arrested for his peaceful protest against Israeli takeover of village land for settlement expansion.
Describing Tamimi as “Palestinian human rights defender” and “a prisoner of conscience” who was “detained solely for his role in organizing peaceful protests against the encroachment onto Palestinian lands by Israeli settlers,” AI said Tamimi “should be released immediately and unconditionally.”
Tamimi, 44, married with four children, was arrested on March 24, 2011 and charged days later with “incitement and support of a hostile organization, organizing and participating in unauthorized processions, incitement to throwing objects against a person or property” and other offences. He denied all the charges.
AI said Tamimi “has repeatedly affirmed non-violent principles in his defense of villagers against the construction of settlements on occupied territories which violates international law.”
While Tamimi admitted in a statement in an Israeli military court on November 16 that he has “called for and organized peaceful popular demonstrations against the occupation, settler attacks and the theft of more than half of the land of my village… in order to defend our land and our people,” he nevertheless denied inciting to any violent act, including throwing stones at soldiers.
“What incites protesters to throw stones is the sound of bullets, the occupation’s bulldozers as they destroy the land, the smell of teargas and the smoke coming from burnt houses,” he said. “I did not incite anyone to throw stones, but I am not responsible for the security of your soldiers who invade my village and attack my people with all the weapons of death and the equipment of terror.”
The main evidence the military prosecutor is using against Tamimi is the testimony of 14-year-old boy from the same village who was taken from his bed at gunpoint and into interrogation the morning after his arrest during which he was coerced to say that Tamimi organized groups of youth into 'brigades' charged with different responsibilities during the demonstrations, including stone-throwing and blocking roads.
Amnesty International said it had documented in 1993 the torture of Tamimi by the General Security Service during detention and “was subjected to violent shaking during interrogation,” but was released without charge a month later.
Residents of Nabi Saleh have been organizing weekly protests since December 2009 against the expansion of the illegal Halamish and Neve Tzuf settlements on village land and their takeover of water springs vital for the livelihood of village residents.
AI said Israel’s settlement policy is “inherently discriminatory and results in continuing violations of the rights to adequate housing, water and livelihoods for Palestinians in the occupied West Bank.”It said that it “has repeatedly called on the Israeli authorities to put an immediate end to the construction or expansion of Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and to take measures to evacuate Israeli civilians living in settlements in the West Bank.”
Palestine News & Info Agency - WAFA