Palestinian protester kept in Israel jail as term ends 26Nov10 November 28, 2010

Middle East Online -  26 November 2010

A Palestinian jailed for organising regular protests against Israel’s controversial separation barrier with the West Bank has been kept in prison after the end of his term, his lawyer said on Thursday.

“Abdullah Abu Rahma, who was to have been released from jail on November 18 after serving his one-year sentence, is still being held,” Gaby Lasky told AFP, denouncing what she called “an unjustifiable decision.”

“There was nothing to prevent the army from freeing him ahead of a new trial,” she added.

The Israeli military confirmed that Abu Rahma was still being held, saying the military prosecutor had appealed the original sentence, seeking a two-year term, and that he “risked resuming his illegal activities” if freed.

“It is all the more shocking because my client has been hailed by the European Union as a defender of human rights,” Lasky said.

Abu Rahma was convicted in August of incitement and organising illegal demonstrations but acquitted on charges of stone-throwing and weapons possession for exhibiting spent tear-gas canisters fired by Israeli troops.

Shortly afterwards, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton expressed concern that “the possible imprisonment of Mr Abu Rahma is intended to prevent him and other Palestinians from exercising their legitimate right to protest against the existence of the separation barrier in a non-violent manner.”

In October, he was handed down a one-year jail term, after having already being held in custody for 10 months.

Abu Rahma, arrested in December 2009, was one of the chief organisers of the weekly demonstrations in the West Bank town of Bilin that are regularly attended by scores of Palestinian, Israeli and foreign activists.

The protests are billed as non-violent but frequently see Palestinian youths hurling stones at Israeli troops, who often fire tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse the demonstrators.

According to UN figures, Israel has so far completed 413 kilometres (256 miles) of its planned 709-kilometre (440-mile) barrier — a network of walls, barbed-wire fences, trenches, and closed military roads.

When completed, 85 percent of the structure will be inside the West Bank.

Israel says the barrier is needed to prevent Palestinian attacks but the Palestinians, who refer to it as an “Apartheid Wall,” say it cuts them off from occupied land that should be part of their future state.

In July 2004, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) issued a non-binding resolution calling for those parts of the barrier inside the West Bank to be torn down and for further construction in the territory to cease.

Israel has ignored the ICJ ruling.

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