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Free Ahed Tamimi

Israel’s military justice system characterised by prolonged pre-trial detention, abuse of kids and sham trials, says Amnesty

On 21 March, an Israeli military juvenile court in Ofer in the Occupied Territories sentenced Palestinian teenager Ahed Tamimi to eight months in prison (with a further eight months suspended) and fined her 5,000 shekels ($1,440). She had agreed to a deal where she pleaded guilty to four of the 12 charges she faced, according to her lawyer.

Ahed, then 16, had been filmed slapping and kicking armed Israeli soldiers at the entrance to her home in the village of Nabi Saleh in the occupied West Bank on 15 December. This was an hour after her 14-year-old cousin, Mohammed Tamimi, had been shot in the face by Israeli soldiers at close range with a rubber-coated metal bullet. (PN 2614–2615)

As part of the same plea deal, Ahed Tamimi’s mother Nariman Tamimi was also given eight months in prison, a suspended sentence, and a fine (of $1,740), while Ahed’s cousin Nour Tamimi was fined $580, sentenced to 16 days (time already served since her arrest), and a suspended sentence.

On 12 March, Palestinian human rights defender Munther Amira was sentenced to six months in prison on four charges of taking part in demonstrations, including one calling for the release of Ahed and Nariman in December. Amnesty International has made Munther a prisoner of conscience.

Jailing children

A new report by the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, Minors in Jeopardy: Violation of the Rights of Palestinian Minors by Israel’s Military Courts, finds that the military juvenile court, far from protecting children’s rights, mainly functions to sign off on plea bargains already reached between the defence and the prosecution outside the courtroom.

The authorities told B’Tselem that, on 28 February, Israeli prisons had 356 Palestinian minors in custody: 95 serving a prison sentence, 257 in pre- or post- indictment detention, and four in administrative detention.

According to the Electronic Intifada website, the youngest Palestinian prisoners in Israeli custody are currently a 13-year-old boy, Abdel Raouf al-Bilawi from Dheisheh refugee camp in Bethlehem; and a 13-year-old girl, Razan Abu Sal, from al-Arroub refugee camp in Hebron.

The pair were sentenced to four months in prison each for allegedly throwing stones in separate incidents – they also received fines of $100 (Abdel) and $700 (Razan).

Sarah Leah Whitson of Human Rights Watch told the BBC: ‘Plea bargains are the norm in Israel’s military justice system, which is characterised by prolonged pre-trial detention, abuse of kids and sham trials.’