Leith Yassin (19), a university student, and Mohammed Barakat (17), still in high-school, were arrested two months ago for cutting the annexation barrier that separates their village from more than 50% of its farmland. Both of the boys’ family lands have been lost behind the barrier, their olive trees uprooted and their land earmarked for the expansion of the Israeli settlement of Modi’in Illit.
In 2004, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague ruled that the barrier built by Israel on occupied Palestinian land is illegal under international law and should be dismantled. While Palestinian land continues to be annexed and Palestinian freedom of movement and worship continues to be denied, the international community is unfortunately doing nothing to act in response to the ICJ ruling. As a result, Palestinian youth like Leith and Mohammed, all over the West Bank, have taken implementing justice and international law into their own hands.
On Thursday 19th October an Israeli military judge sentenced Leith and Mohammed to six months and five months, respectively, in Israeli prison in addition to the two months that they have already spent in detention. After their release, Mohammed and Leith will be subject to a three-year probationary period during which they could be incarcerated for another ten months for this offense. The military court offered the families of the two youth the option of paying 1,500 shekels (~$350) for every month that their sons have been sentenced, requiring a sum of 9,000 shekels (~$2,100) for Leith and 7,500 shekels (~$1,750) for Mohammed.
1,500 shekels is the equivalent of one month’s salary for the providers of these families. Leith’s father, a school teacher, and Mohammed’s father, a muezzin (who announces the prayers at the mosque) have not received a salary from the Palestinian Authority in the past eight months due to the economic siege on the Palestinian people since the Palestinian elections. As a result, the two families, impoverished like the majority of Palestinians in the occupied Palestinian territories, have no way of releasing their sons, who clearly are not a security threat given the judge’s willingness to accept $4,000 for their release. The humiliation and helplessness of not being able to free their children is another tool of the Occupation to weaken the fiber that holds together Palestinian society and to force the Palestinians into submission.
This week Bil’in families will be celebrating the feast of Al-Adha, the most important Muslim Holiday and a time for families to be together.
Please help free Leith and Mohammed to spend the holiday with their loved ones and show Palestinians that they are not alone in their struggle for justice!
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For Israelis contact: Sara Assouline 0523-899386