Palestinian activist Abdullah Abu Rahma gestures during a 2010 court appearance at Israel's Ofer military court near the West Bank city of Ramallah
Palestinian activist Abdullah Abu Rahma gestures during a 2010 court appearance at Israel's Ofer military court near the West Bank city of Ramallah © Ahmad Gharabli - AFP/File
Palestinian activist Abdullah Abu Rahma gestures during a 2010 court appearance at Israel's Ofer military court near the West Bank city of Ramallah
AFP
Last updated: October 21, 2014

Palestinian convicted for 'interfering' with Israeli army work

An Israeli military court has convicted a Palestinian activist for "interfering" with the work of an army tractor as it tried to erect a barrier in the West Bank, his lawyer said Tuesday.

Abdullah Abu Rahma, who spent 15 months behind bars for organising weekly demonstrations against Israel's separation barrier in the village of Bilin, was convicted on Monday at Ofer military court near the West Bank city of Ramallah.

"He was convicted of interfering with the work of a soldier," his lawyer Gaby Laskey told AFP, saying the conviction was related to an incident on May 10, 2012 near the military checkpoint in Beitunia, near Ramallah.

According to the testimony of two Israeli border police, Abu Rahma blocked a tractor which was trying to set up a temporary concrete barricade ahead of the annual Nakba protests when Palestinians mourn the tragedy which befell them when Israel was established in 1948.

His action prevented the tractor from working in an incident which lasted "a few minutes," the indictment read.

"On that date, the accused interfered with the work of a military tractor and even stopped its work, and then refused a number of times to listen to orders given to him by soldiers at the checkpoint," the 12-page indictment said.

Following his previous conviction, Abu Rahma was released from prison in March 2011 with a four-month suspended sentence.

The conviction means he risks being thrown back in jail for another four months, the lawyer said. In the West Bank, a suspended sentence order remains in force for five years.

The court will pass sentence on December 1.

"Abdullah Abu Rahma is a human rights defender, he has the right to demonstrate against the occupation and there is no legal basis for his arrest," Laskey said.

"It seems that prosecuting a Palestinian for a non-violent symbolic act against the occupation has more of a political meaning than a criminal one."

A 44-year-old school teacher, Abu Rahma is known for coordinating the grassroots, unarmed protest movement against the West Bank separation barrier in Bilin.

His arrest in 2009 and subsequent conviction over the Bilin protests prompted expressions of concern from human rights groups as well as from EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who has described him as a "human rights defender" committed to non-violent protest.

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