12th August 2013 | International Solidarity Movement, Khalil Team | Hebron, Occupied Palestine
On Sunday, 11/08/2013, at approximately 4 o’clock in the afternoon, two activists from Youth Against Settlements (YAS) were arrested. Twenty-one-year-old Abd AlMajeed Bassam Amro, and twenty-year-old Ali Talib Amro were playfully throwing olives at each other when an Israeli soldier came up to them and accused them of throwing stones at his colleague. The colleague in question initially denied having any knowledge of this, but after a brief period, many more soldiers came to the scene and the two youths were arrested and handed over to the police. The police interrogated the youths and rejected to even hear the testimony of eyewitnesses supporting them. The police found enough grounds to charge them based on the accusations of a single soldier, and Ali and Abd AlMajeed were sent to Atsion prison later that night.
Two members of the ISM, as well as many other locals were present as the incident unfolded. Ali and Abd AlMajeed chose to hold their ground and defend themselves against the soldier’s accusations, putting their trust in reasoning with the Israeli forces, hoping that the testimony of many eyewitnesses to the event would be enough to counter the claims of the soldier. Sadly, this was not the case. The soldier accusing the youths called for backup, and within a few minutes, 9 soldiers in total were present. They discussed the incident among themselves for a while and then decided to arrest the youths. The boys were blindfolded as they were led from the scene and handed over to the police.
The two members of the ISM who were present at the scene, immediately approached the police vehicle where Ali and Abd AlMajeed were being kept blindfolded, and demanded that their testimony as eyewitnesses in defense of the accused be heard. The presiding officer asked them to follow in a taxi to Aljabri police station where the youths were being taken for interrogation and ask at the gate to be admitted in to provide evidence.
At the gate of the police station, the eyewitnesses were made to wait for two and a half hours, while the investigating officer initially denied that the youths were being kept in the station. Eventually admitting that the boys were indeed being held there, the witnesses were then told to wait while he considered whether or not he needed to hear their testimony. After a while, the officer told them to go home and that he would contact them if needed, to which the eye witnesses pointed out that the interrogator did not know neither their names nor their phone numbers. Finally, the interrogator came out and told the eyewitnesses to go home, the interrogation was over. “Are you releasing them then?” was the reply of the eyewitnesses, to which the interrogator answered: “no, they’re going to prison.” When questioned as to why the other side of the story was not heard at all, the investigator answered that he required only the word of the soldiers in this case. Later that night the boys were transferred to one of the worst reputed jails in the West Bank, Atsion prison between Hebron and Bethlehem.
Unfortunately this kind of story is by no means a special case in occupied Palestine. Palestinians are tried under military law, granting them little or no rights. In fact the only thing the Israeli occupation court system needs in order to reach a conviction is the testimony of one eyewitness, in many cases the testimony of the very person making the accusation. Twenty-one-year-old Abd AlMajeed father is currently in prison following a conviction of 7 life sentences. He, like his son, was arrested on the testimony of the person accusing him. He had allegedly shot a gun at one of the 400 illegal settlers living in the Tel Rumeida area.
The arrest of the two YAS activists comes less than a week after Israeli soldiers were filmed assaulting a twelve-year-old boy and about 9 days after a seventy-one-year-old woman died because the occupation forces would not let the ambulance through Hebron’s many checkpoints. Neither of these incidents has had any consequences for the soldiers involved.