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ISM activists to face first hearing, Supreme Court rules arrests illegal

19 March 2010

International Solidarity Movement

For immediate release:

The Israeli Supreme Court handed down its verdict last week regarding the arrest of International Solidarity Movement activists Bridget Chappell and Ariadna Jove Marti from Ramallah on February 7. The decision ruled that the arrests were illegal, but refrained from further comment on which Israeli department was responsible. Chappell and Marti’s first hearing in the Tel Aviv District Court regarding their deportation orders will take place at 3pm this coming Monday, March 22. The illegality of their arrests will be pursued in this case.

A panel of three judges’ decision issued last week declared that the arrest of Australian and Spanish nationals Chappell and Marti in Area A of the Palestinian Authority (under full Palestinian civilian and military control under the 1994 Oslo Accords) was illegal, but did not specify whether it was the military’s invasion of the ISM’s media office in Ramallah or the activists’ subsequent transferral to Oz Immigration Unit custody at Ofer military camp (still in the Occupied Territories, where immigration police hold no jurisdiction) was the condemnable issue. The judges stated that the case, opened on February 8, which saw the release of Chappell and Marti on bail, had now been exhausted in the Supreme Court and all remaining issues were to be pursued in Tel Aviv’s District Court.

Chappell and Marti’s lawyers Omer Shatz and Iftah Cohen filed an appeal in the District Court against the deportation orders that still apply to the activists, who are currently permitted to remain in Israeli until the end of legal proceedings.

“We will continue to press the issue of their arrest in the District Court, as we feel it was not sufficiently resolved in the Supreme Court case,” said Omer Shatz. “In addition to the appeal against the deportation orders and the bail conditions of their release, in the hopes that they can return to the West Bank.”

The activists were ordered to pay 3000NIS each for their release, in addition to the condition that they may not return to the West Bank thereafter. The condition, though not uncommon, highlights severe ironies in the Israeli authorities’ and court’s handling of the case in their removal from the Palestinian Authority to Israel, on charges of outstaying their Israeli visas and the subsequent order to remain in a country for which they hold no visa. The Palestinian Authority, under the Oslo Accords, has the jurisdiction to issue visas and handle issues of immigration within its own territory, but so far has never exercised this authority.

The first hearing of Chappell and Marti’s case in Tel Aviv’s District Court will be heard on March 22 at 3pm. The original date set for April was moved forward at the request of the prosecution, indicating a desire on the state’s part to remove the activists from the country as quickly as possible, considering the media attention they have gained since their release and the re-commencement of their solidarity work on the Israeli side of the Apartheid Wall. When asked if the activists may face deportation after this hearing, Shatz commented that “it’s unlikely, but there is a small chance the case may be thrown out after this hearing and Chappell and Marti’s deportation orders will be applicable to them immediately thereafter. It’s obvious that the state is keen to have them out of the country. We have the success of the Supreme Court verdict on our side, however.”

The activists regard the Supreme Court verdict as a victory and an important, if symbolic, step in the fight against Israel’s violation of national and international laws in its attempts to silence or remove those active against the occupation. “We must demonstrate to Israel that we will resist the crackdown on the popular resistance, and that we cannot be taken down so easily,” says Chappell. “On the ground, we have continued our work with Palestinian communities in East Jerusalem such as Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan. I’m steadfast in my resolution to remain here as long as I can, for the political ramifications of our case and to continue my role as an international activist in Palestine’s popular struggle.”

A force of 20 armed Israeli soldiers invaded the ISM’s Ramallah office on February 7 in a night raid operation, arresting Chappell and Marti, who were then subjected to interrogation and detention in Givon deportation prison. Almost one month before, ISM media co-ordinator Eva Novakova was kidnapped from her Ramallah apartment in a similar raid and deported to the Czech Republic. Novakova’s lawyers have since successfully obtained a verdict from the Israeli courts that this operation was illegal. Israeli attempts to deport foreigners involved with Palestinian solidarity work are part of a recent campaign to end Palestinian grassroots demonstrations, which involves mass arrests of Palestinian protesters and organizers.

Those wishing to attend Chappell and Marti’s trial on Monday March 22 should be present at the Tel Aviv District Court before 3pm.