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Spanish parliament condemns conviction of Bil’in leader

Abdallah Abu Rahmah during a demo against the Separation Wall, while Israeli soldiers try to arrest him. Photo by Oren Ziv/activestills.org

Abdallah Abu Rahmah during a demo against the Separation Wall, while Israeli soldiers try to arrest him. Photo by Oren Ziv/activestills.org

The Spanish Parliament followed the footsteps of the EU and the Desmond Tutu of the Elders, and joined the rising tide of international criticism over Abu Rahmah’s conviction of incitement by an Israeli military court.

The Spanish Parliament’s Intergroup for Palestine issued a statement that expressed their “deep concern that Abdallah Abu Rahmah’s potential incarceration aims at preventing him and other Palestinians from exercising their legitimate right to protest against the existence of the Wall in a non violent manner.” (full text of the statement is available below or here in the Spnish original)

The Intergroup for Palestine is an official body of the Spanish Parliament, in which all political parties represented. Its decisions and statements are achieved in full consensus.

The Intergroup’s is the latest international reaction to the politically motivated conviction of Abdallah Abu Rahmah by an Israeli military court. It was preceded by a statement by EU foreign policy chief, Baroness Catherine Ashton and by a statement by Desmond Tutu, on behalf of the Elders calling on Israel to overturn the conviction.

Abu Rahmah’s trial will resume next Wednesday, the 15th of September, as it will enter the sentencing phase. The prosecution will argue its case for an acrid sentencing, and are expected to ask for a sentence exceeding two years. The defense will argue Abu Rahmah had already been devoid of his freedom for too long, and should be released immediately.

Background
Abu Rahmah, the coordinator of the Bil’in Popular Committee Against the Wall and Settlements, was acquitted of two out of the four charges brought against him in the indictment – stone-throwing and a ridiculous and vindictive arms possession charge. According to the indictment, Abu Rahmah collected used tear-gas projectiles and bullet cases shot at demonstrators, with the intention of exhibiting them to show the violence used against demonstrators.  This absurd charge is a clear example of how eager the military prosecution is to use legal procedures as a tool to silence and smear unarmed dissent.

The court did, however, find Abu Rahmah guilty of two of the most draconian anti-free speech articles in military legislation: incitement, and organizing and participating in illegal demonstrations. It did so based only on testimonies of minors who were arrested in the middle of the night and denied their right to legal counsel, and despite acknowledging significant ills in their questioning.

The court was also undeterred by the fact that the prosecution failed to provide any concrete evidence implicating Abu Rahmah in any way, despite the fact that all demonstrations in Bil’in are systematically filmed by the army.

Under military law, incitement is defined as “The attempt, verbally or otherwise, to influence public opinion in the Area in a way that may disturb the public peace or public order” (section 7(a) of the Order Concerning Prohibition of Activities of Incitement and Hostile Propaganda (no.101), 1967), and carries a 10 years maximal sentence.

STATEMENT FROM THE PARLIAMENTARY INTERGROUP FOR PALESTINE ABOUT ABDALLAH ABU RAHMAH’S CONVICTION

On August 24, 2010, the coordinator of the Bil’in Popular Committee (West Bank), Abdallah Abu Rahmah, was convicted of incitement and of participating in and organizing demonstrations by an Israeli Military Court.

This sentence comes after an eight months trial, during which the defendant has been bereft of freedom.

He is now awaiting his sentence, which could carry several years n prison.

The Parliamentary Intergroup for Palestine considers the Bil’in peaceful struggle against the construction of the Separation Wall, which was declared illegal, as a defense of the primacy of law and international law in the face of arbitrary decisions, which ignore not only the reiterated resolutions of the United Nations’ political bodies, but also Israel’s own legal organization.

The peaceful opposition to the occupation and the construction of the Wall is in and of itself a defense of the individual and collective human rights of the Palestinian People, which deserves the protection of the international community.

It is on these grounds that Catherine Ashton, the High Representative of the European Union, has issued a statement on the issue on August 24, to which the Intergroup subscribes.

Therefore, we express our deep concern that Abdallah Abu Rahmah’s potential incarceration aims at preventing him and other Palestinians from exercising their legitimate right to protest against the existence of the Wall in a non violent manner.

Spanish Congress of Deputies Hall, August 30, 2010.

From the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee

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