The Israel Prison service has rejected a request by Hadash MK Youssef Jabareen (Joint List) to visit the detained teenage Palestinian activist Ahed Tamimi.
“It is my right as a member of the Knesset to visit Tamimi and examine the conditions of her imprisonment and her treatment,” said Jabareen, who was given no reason for the denial. “She is a minor whose detention requires continuous public scrutiny. The Prison Service’s refusal to allow me to visit her is arbitrary and vindictive, and is also intended to put pressure on Tamimi and her family.” Jabareen said he would appeal to the Supreme Court.
Tamimi’s military trial opened on Tuesday, February 13, and is being held behind closed doors despite Tamimi’s request for a public trial. The next session is scheduled for the beginning of March. Tamimi was arrested on December 19 when the army raided her home in the middle of the night, following the release and internet dissemination of a video showing her attempting to push armed Israeli soldiers off her family’s porch. She has been imprisoned since then. A military court denied bail to Ahed and her mother, Nariman, who was also arrested, ruling that they would remain in prison until the end of their trials. Nariman was arrested the day after Ahed and is charged with incitement for livestreaming the video, which immediately went viral.
Ahed Tamimi faces 12 charges in her indictment related to five separate incidents. The three charges linked to the video are assault of a soldier, disrupting the work of a soldier, and incitement. That video was recorded only three days after an Israeli soldier shot and severely wounded Mohammed Tamimi, Ahed’s 15-year-old cousin. Comatose for several days, part of his Mohammed’s skull was surgically removed after he was struck in the head by a rubber-coated bullet.
Despite Ahed Tamimi’s desire for a transparent and public trial, the occupation Military Court on Tuesday ordered her case to be tried behind closed doors. The court said it was standard procedure to hold trials involving minors, like Tamimi, out of public view in order to protect those involved who are not yet adults. Dozens of diplomats, journalists, photographers, and supporters arrived at the Ofer Military prison Tuesday morning for the opening hearing of the trial. The judge, however, ruled that the proceedings would take place behind closed doors to protect Ahed’s interests, ordering everyone in the courtroom, except for Ahed’s family members to leave.
But Tamimi’s lawyer, Gaby Lasky, criticized the decision saying, “It’s strange that the court decided – after sending Ahed into detention until the end of her trial and after her name had already been publicized – that it is in her interest to conduct the trial far from public view.” Lasky contends that “While this decision nominally is said to protect Ahed, it is rather really trying to protect the court.”
Lasky also pointed out that multiple pre-trial court hearings related to Tamimi’s case have already been held and that these involved the massive, standing-room only presence of Hebrew-, Arabic- and English-language media, to say nothing of the video of Tamimi’s actions, the main subject of the trial, which immediately went viral on social media. These same pre-trial hearings were also attended by diplomats from several European countries.
The human-rights group Amnesty International released a statement prior to Tuesday’s hearing calling on Israel to immediately release Tamimi, who has been held since December 19, and argued that her continued detention based on a January 17 court ruling violates international law.