Court Sentences Bedouin Human Rights Defenders to Imprisonment

On Monday, September 21, three members of the Abu Madhi’m al-Turi family of the unrecognized Bedouin village Al-Araqib, were sentenced to imprisonment by the Be’er Sheva Magistrate’s Court after being convicted of three charges earlier in 2019: trespass with intent to commit an offense, violation of lawful direction and unlawful entry to public land. Aziz Abu Madhi’m and his brother Seif, were sentenced to six and three months in prison, respectively. Their father, Sheikh Sayekh, was sentenced to three months of community service due to his age and health condition. Another family member, Salem, was sentenced to four months in prison. The four were also fined extremely high sums, ranging between ILS 12,000-30,000 each, and ILS 77,000 in total.

Sheikh Sayekh Abu Madi'am al-Touri, right, and family members during a demonstration against the demolition of the Bedouin village of Al-Araqib, unrecognized by the State of Israel

Sheikh Sayekh Abu Madi’am al-Touri, right, and family members during a demonstration against the demolition of the Bedouin village of Al-Araqib, unrecognized by the State of Israel (Photo: Coexistence Forum of the Negev)

Sheikh Sayekh and his family, who are represented by Atty. Michal Pomeranz funded by the Human Rights Defenders Fund (HRDF) and the Negev Coexistence Forum for Civil Equality (NCF), are planning to appeal the decision. Following the ruling, Advocate Pomeranz stated: “The Court imposed upon the Abu Madhi’m family an unfounded sentence, which does not comply with the previous and likewise severe, verdict in the case of Sheikh Sayekh. The court unjustifiably sends people who are not in any way criminals to prison, and we will appeal this outrageous decision.” Atty. Pomeranz filed a motion for a stay of execution of the sentence and it was approved by the Magistrate’s Court, under the condition that each of the defendants will provide ILS 5,000 guarantee within one week.

Sheikh Sayekh was previously convicted in 2017 of 19 counts of trespassing, 19 counts of unlawful entry into public land and one count of breach of law, all of which relate solely to his persistent struggle to safeguard his family’s historical rights over their land. He was sentenced to ten months in prison, five months’ probation, and ILS 36,000 fine.

These are only some of many criminal, civil and administrative legal procedures executed by the State against the Abu Madhi’m family and other indigenous Bedouin activists, in an attempt to prevent them from resisting violations of their rights, and as deterrence to all human rights defenders protecting Bedouin indigenous rights.

The criminalization of the Abu-Madhi’m family for living on their land, and the findings that this is an offense that carries prison sentences, effectively criminalizes thousands of Bedouin citizens with similar status on the land. There is a reason to believe that the Abu-Madhi’m family has been singled out for enforcement action to the full extent of the law because they have opted for a non-violent struggle for Bedouins rights in the Negev.

Related: Posts on the unrecognized Arab-Bedouin village of Al-Araqib