21st December 2013 | International Solidarity Movement, Nablus Team | Kafr Qaddum, Occupied Palestine
Second Update 24th December:
A military judge has ruled that Murad Eshtewi will be released from prison with a 7000 NIS bail. Nery Ramati, Murad’s lawyer, argued that it was unreasonable to continue to hold Murad for interrogation as he had not been interrogated since his arrest at 10am Friday morning.
Update 24th December:
Murad Eshtewi was arrested on the 20th December and has still not been interrogated. Murad has not been charged with any crimes, though he is suspected of “incitement”. This charge appears to be based on a photograph of Murad with a megaphone. He is also suspected of entering a closed military zone.
Yesterday Murad attended Salem Court near Jenin where Israeli forces requested that his detention be extended for 8 days, it was granted for four days and his second hearing will be held on the 26th
Today Murad and his lawyers are trying to appeal this decision at Ofer prison in Ramallah.
In recent years Israel has imprisoned leaders of popular committees for “incitement” and similar charges. An example is Abdullah Abu Rahma, the head of Bil’in popular committee, who in 2010 was convicted of “incitement” and imprisoned for 18 months. He also received a 6 months suspended sentence that is active for 5 years and a 5000 NIS fine.
The imprisonment of Murad Eshtewi is part of Israel’s campaign to criminalise popular protests by using its military court.
Yesterday morning, Murad Eshtewi, the head of the Popular Committee of Kufr Qaddum and leader of the Friday demonstrations was arrested and is still being held by Israeli forces.
At around 3:00 on Friday morning, Israeli soldiers entered the village of Kafr Qaddum, in Qalqilya district, arresting two citizens on the accusation of having taken part in the regular Friday demonstrations held in the village. The men were released the following morning without charges.
The house of Murad Eshtewi, the head of the Popular Committee of Kafr Qaddum, was also raided during the night incursion and he was subjected to aggressive questioning.
Later, at approximately 10:00 on Friday morning, two hours before the demonstration was due to begin, Mr Eshtewi was walking on the outskirts of the village and was ambushed and arrested by soldiers. He did not resist this arrest and yet Israeli forces were extremely aggressive in their use of both pepper spray and stun grenades. He has not yet been released.
His attorney, Lymor Goldstein, stated that, “Contrary to the fundamental principles of due process we have not been presented with the accusations against Murad nor has he been interrogated since his arrest. “
In recent weeks there has been a steady escalation of night raids, increasingly violent repression of Friday demonstrations, flying checkpoints and seemingly arbitrary arrests. In the past month alone there have been more than twenty night raids on houses in the village.
Last month a new army commander responsible for the area gave a verbal warning to villagers stating that, unless they suspend their Friday demonstrations, the military harassment outlined above would be increased.
A typical night raid will involve up to around fifty soldiers surrounding and entering a particular house. Tear gas is often released and live ammunition may be fired into the air to intimidate residents. Israeli soldiers may break windows and doors in order to enter the houses.
Arrestees are blindfolded and handcuffed before being taken for questioning to another location. Interrogation may take place in the back of an army jeep, on the ground at the side of the road, or within the police station. Frequently they are subjected to verbal and physical abuse. When released, the detainees are often left in the road, kilometers from their homes.
The villagers of Kafr Qaddum are currently unable to access much of their land due to the closure by the Israeli army of the village’s main and only road leading to Nablus in 2003. The road was closed in three stages, ultimately restricting access for farmers to the 11,000 dunams of land that lie along either side to one or two times a year. Since the road closure, the people of Kafr Qaddum have been forced to rely on an animal trail to access this area; the road is narrow and, according to the locals, intended only for animals. In 2004 and 2006, three villagers died when they were unable to reach the hospital in time. The ambulances carrying them were prohibited from using the main road and were forced to take a 13 km detour. These deaths provoked even greater resentment in Kafr Qaddum and, on 1 July 2011, the villagers decided to unite in protest in order to re-open the road and protect the land in danger of settlement expansion along it.