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Israel trying to "break" human rights defender arrested for expressing his opinions

Maureen Clare Murphy

November 30, 2012

The Palestinian human rights and prisoner advocacy group Addameer announced yesterday that the Israeli military has listed charges against one of its researchers, Ayman Nasser. Nasser was arrested in a dawn raid on his Saffa, West Bank home on 25 October during which his wife Haleema was detained by soldiers who pointed their weapons at her during the 1.5 hours they occupied the family’s home.

The charges against Nasser relate to his human rights work and activism. Addameer reports: "The charges include support and solidarity with Palestinian prisoners, participating in the annual Prisoners’ Day on 17 April (the charges specified participation in 2011 and 2012), as well as participating in solidarity activities during hunger strikes (both collective hunger strikes and individual hunger strikes), in addition to attending a festival anniversary of Martyr Abu Ali Mustafa on 27 August 2012."

Nasser told a military court in October: "I believe that every human being has opinions and positions and if it’s not violating the law he can freely think and speak these opinions. I am a human rights defender who supports the Palestinian prisoners and I represent my opinions in the public media. My thoughts are not secret, they are public, and everyone knows them."

Addameer states that Israel has subjected Nasser to detention conditions designed to break him both physically and psychologically:

After being subjected to interrogation inside his home for over an hour, the IOF [Israeli occupation forces] transferred Ayman to Al Moskobiyeh interrogation center in Jerusalem. Ayman spent 39 days in interrogation at Al Moskobiyeh, during which he was subjected to lengthy sessions of intensive and harsh interrogation while being shackled to a chair with his hands behind his back, and with some of the sessions lasting for more than 20 hours a day continuously. Between interrogation sessions Ayman remained in solitary confinement in a small cell with rough grey walls, a dim yellow light and a single blanket. He was not aware at the time, but all of these measures were practiced against him in order to break him psychologically and physically. It should be noted that Ayman has several pre-existing health conditions; he suffers from severe back pain as a result of an inflammation in his spine, he also suffers from ulceration in his colon, and regularly takes five kinds of medications and pain killers.

On 22 November 2012, as part of its repression tactics, the IOF transferred Ayman from Al Moskobiyeh interrogation center to Megiddo prison and placed him in solitary confinement under inhumane life conditions, he is detained in an isolated cell, and is transported to and from court in a private vehicle. Please note that Megiddo isolation section is intended for prisoners with disciplinary sanctions imposed by the Israeli Prison Service.

Nasser, a father of four children between the ages of three and thirteen, was previously arrested in 1992 and imprisoned for six years. He studied social work as an undergraduate and two years ago was awarded a master’s degree in Social Educational Psychology from Abu Dis University. He is a full-time researcher with Addameer and also lectures part-time at Al Quds Open University and is chairperson of the Handala community center in his village Saffa.

Addameer has published a profile of Ayman Nasser and encourages supporters to write to Israeli authorities to demand his release.

Israel routinely detains human rights defenders like Ayman Nasser. According to Addameer, "In 2011, there were at least 295 documented cases of arrest of human rights defenders, 58 of whom were under the age of 18."

121129-bassem-tamimi.jpg

Israeli forces arrest Bassem Tamimi at a 24 October protest at an Israeli settlement supermarket.

(Issam Rimawi / APA images)

Bassem Tamimi a "prisoner of conscience"

The human rights group Amnesty International this month called on Israel to release "prisoner of conscience" Bassem Tamimi. Tamimi, who was arrested on 24 October following a protest at a West Bank settlement supermarket, is a leader of the protest movement in his village of Nabi Saleh, where Israeli forces have killed demonstrators — most recently Rushdi Tamimi, who died last week after he was shot during a protest of Israel’s bombing campaign in Gaza.

According to Amnesty, this is the 11th time Bassem Tamimi has been arrested by the Israeli army. He currently faces charges at a military court related to the 24 October protest which Amnesty views to be "unfounded."

Amnesty stated:

According to eyewitness and media reports, as the protesters left the supermarket on October 24 they were beaten by Israeli police and security forces, which also fired stun grenades. Bassem’s wife Nariman Tamimi attended the protest and told Amnesty International: "The police were brutal during the arrest. They threw Bassem on the ground and pressed him down while putting the cuffs on his hands. Anyone who tried to approach them was beaten up. The police seemed scared and nervous. They wanted to make arrests fast."

Despite the police use of unnecessary and excessive force, the military prosecution has charged Tamimi with assault, based on the testimony of one police officer who alleges that the activist hit him on the hand.

Amnesty International spoke to witnesses and reviewed numerous videos from the protest, and found no evidence that he or the other protesters used violence. Tamimi is committed to non-violent resistance and has a long record of peaceful protest. Another Palestinian protester, now released on bail, faces similar charges.

Israeli military laws in place in the West Bank impose sweeping and arbitrary restrictions on freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, requiring people to obtain advance permission from the Israeli military for any proposed gathering of 10 or more persons "for a political purpose of for a matter that could be interpreted as political."



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