21 October 2010 | Popular Struggle Coordination Committee
Adeeb Abu Rahmah, a protest leader from Bil’in, was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment by the Military Court of Appeals, for his involvement in organizing demonstrations. The decision dramatically aggravates the one-year sentence originally imposed in the first instance.
Judge Lieutenant Colonel Benisho of the Military Court of Appeals accepted the Military prosecution’s appeal in Adeeb Abu Rahmah’s case today, which demanded to harshen the already heavy-handed one-year sentence imposed on him by the prior instance back in July. The court sentenced Abu Rahmah 18 months of imprisonment with bail of 6,000 NIS and suspended sentence of 1 year. An appeal filed by the defense both on the severity of the punishment and on the conviction itself was denied.
Adeeb Abu Rahmah’s sentence is the first to be handed by the Military Court of Appeals in a series of recent trials against high-profile Palestinian anti-Wall grassroots organizers. The harsh and imbalanced decision is likely to affect other cases, most notably that of Abdallah Abu Rahmah – the Bil’in organizer declared human rights defender by the EU – who was too recently sentenced to a year in jail by the first instance of the military court.
Adeeb Abu Rahmah’s case relied heavily on the forced confessions of four minors arrested in nighttime raids by Israeli soldiers. The four attested in court to having been coerced into incriminating Abu Rahmah and other organizers during the course of their police investigations. They were also questioned unlawfully, denied consol and without their parents being presents and, in some cases, late at night.
The ruling in the appeal concludes 15 months of unfair legal procedures, held amidst a massive Israeli arrest campaign, which ended with an upheld conviction of incitement, activity against the public order and entering a closed military zone.
This precedent-setting decision is the first time in recorded history of the Israeli Military Court of Appeals in which a Palestinian is convicted with a charge of incitement. Even the original one year sentence dramatically exceeds precedents set by the Israeli Supreme Court. The Court of Appeals’ even harsher sentence highlights the lack of equality before the law between Israelis and Palestinians, who are tried before two different legal systems. For instance, in a case of a Jewish settler convicted of incitement to murder, the court only imposed an eight months suspended sentence.
Attorney Gaby Lasky (Defense): “Today the court of appeals has shown that it is serving as one more instance of political repression not as an actual court where justice is served. The court admitted what we all knew – that the entire system is trying to make an example of Adeeb in order to silence the entire Popular Struggle movement against Israel’s occupation.”
Having served his original one-year prison term in full, Adeeb Abu Rahmah should have been released immediately after hearing the sentence. The military prosecution, which hoped for an even harsher sentence as part of its ongoing efforts to use legal persecution to suppress the Palestinian popular struggle, petitioned the Military Court of Appeals, asking that Abu Rahmah remains incarcerated despite having served his sentence.
In a clearly politically motivated decision, Judge Lieutenant Colonel Benisho of the Military Court of Appeals decided to remand Abu Rahmah until a decision in the appeal, saying that “This is an appeal filed to set the proper punishment in a unique case regarding which a general punishment level has not yet been set.” The judge chose to completely ignore the punishment level set forth by the supreme court in similar and even harsher cases. Benisho also ignored a supreme court precedent instructing the courts to only extend the remand of convicts past the time they were sentenced to in very extreme situations.