An Israeli military court on Sunday sentenced Palestinian protest leader Bassem al-Tamimi to 13 months imprisonment for encouraging youth to throw rocks at Israeli soldiers. He was charged [AP report] with urging the youth to throw the rocks during a demonstration he led in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh to protest Israeli settlers taking Palestinian lands for their own use. He was arrested in March of last year. The court convicted al-Tamimi mainly based on a statement by a 15-year-old who was interrogated by Israeli officials without representation. Despite the sentence, al-Tamimi was released immediately because he had already served that much time waiting for trial. Another 17-month suspended sentence was leveled against al-Tamimi based on statements by two other Palestinians, but the court rejected the evidence because the statements contradicted each other. Al-Tamimi's case drew significant international attention. In March, Amnesty International [advocacy website] called for the immediate release [text, PDF] of al-Tamimi, a "prisoner of conscience," because he was detained for his role in organizing a peaceful protest. Catherine Ashton [official profile], the Vice President of the European Commission, also expressed her concern [text, PDF] at al-Tamimi's conviction:
The EU considers Bassem Tamimi to be a 'human rights defender' committed to non-violent protest against the expansion of an Israeli settlement on lands belonging to his West Bank village of Nabi Saleh. The EU attended all court hearings in his case and is concerned at the use of evidence based on the testimony of a minor who was interrogated in violation of his rights.Israeli officials, on the other hand, argue that Palestinian detainees were offered fair trials.
Israel has been heavily criticized failing to provide fair trials for Palestinian detainees and to maintain adequate prison conditions. Earlier in May, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [official profile] urged [JURIST report] the Israeli government to try or release more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners, who were on an open-ended hunger strike, without delay to avoid any further risk on their health condition. Several days earlier, the Israeli Supreme Court refused [JURIST report] to grant release of two Palestinian prisoners. It reasoned that such policies were necessary to combat terrorism in Israel. A UN rights expert called [JURIST report] on Israel to comply with international standards on how to treat prisoners on hunger strike after he found that Israeli officials have taken punitive measures against the Palestinian prisoners who went on hunger strike.