Trial Continues for Issa Amro & Farid al-Atrash in Israeli Military Court on Charges Related to Peaceful Protest
October 28, 2017, Ofer Military Court, Occupied Palestine – The trial of Palestinian human rights defenders Issa Amro and Farid al-Atrash will continue on Sunday in an Israeli military court. Issa is a founder of Youth Against Settlements, which engages in peaceful protest against Israel’s theft of Palestinian land and homes for its illegal settlement enterprise.
Seven witnesses, comprised of Israeli soldiers and illegal settlers, are scheduled to testify regarding the trumped up charges Issa and Farid face from the February 2016 Open Shuhada Street protests. Issa in particular is being singled out by Israel’s occupation authorities, which have charged him with 18 offenses that were subsequently condemned as "baseless" by Amnesty International. In June 2017, in an unprecedented show of support for a Palestinian human rights defender, 39 members of the US Congress, including Senator Bernie Sanders, sent letters to the US State Department in support of Issa. During a visit to Washington, DC, in October, Issa met with several members of Congress, including Senator Sanders and Congressman Keith Ellison. Numerous diplomats and officials are expected to be present at the trial.
“I am being persecuted by an Israeli military court in order to stop my human rights work to protect my people and the Palestinian identify of my city,” said Issa. “The military trial I am facing, and the prison term I likely will serve, is part of Israel's increasing efforts to erase us from our homes and lands. Already, the Hebron of today is radically different from the one of my childhood. The names of the streets are being changed from Arabic to Hebrew. Families cannot bear to live among the checkpoints and constant violence and harassment from settlers and soldiers. Now, 31 new settlement units are to be built on Shuhada Street, where the Palestinian bus station once stood but where we are now barred from walking or driving simply because we are not Jewish.”
The conviction rate for Israeli military courts is 99.74%. All Palestinians in the occupied West Bank are subject to Israeli military law, while Jewish settlers are subject to Israeli civilian law. Before the start of Issa’s trial, his attorney Gaby Lasky, requested 14 of the 18 charges against Issa be dismissed on the grounds that they are old, and in some cases were previously investigated and closed. The court refused to drop or reduce any of the charges.
The persecution of Issa is part of a recent increase of repression of peaceful Palestinian human rights defenders by Israel’s occupying army. Hebron, Issa’s hometown, is a microcosm of Israel’s brutal, 50-year-old military occupation, where a few hundred violent, extremist Jewish settlers live in the heart of the largest Palestinian city in the West Bank protected by thousands of Israeli soliders. Recent months have seen a rapid escalation of repression in Hebron. In July, settlers occupied and have continued to remain in another Palestinian home in the city. A few weeks ago, Israel approved the first new settlement units in Hebron’s old city since 2002 and recognized it as an independent settlement separate from others nearby.
In 2010, Issa was declared Human Rights Defender of the Year in Palestine by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). In 2011, he was a guest of the US State Department as part of its International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP). In 2013 he was declared a Human Rights Defender by the European Union. His status as an EU Human Rights Defender was reaffirmed in 2016.
Issa’s trial is scheduled to continue next Sunday, November 5.