Israel convicts Palestinian activist of illegal protest, assault, lawyer says

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An Israeli military court on Wednesday convicted a Palestinian rights activist of offenses in the occupied West Bank, his lawyer said, in a case that Amnesty International described as politically motivated.

The military did not immediately provide Reuters with the Ofer military court’s verdict against Issa Amro of the Palestinian city of Hebron, and arguments over sentencing will await a further hearing on February 8.

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Amro denied the charges, which included protesting without a permit, obstructing Israeli soldiers’ activities in the flashpoint city of Hebron and assaulting a Jewish settler.

Amro, 40, founded an activist group that regularly protests against settlement construction in Hebron. Under heavy Israeli military protection, around 1,000 settlers live there among 200,000 Palestinians.

“It doesn’t make sense to punish someone for non-violent resistance,” Amro told Reuters. “The Israeli military system exists only to oppress Palestinians and restrict freedom of speech.”

Amro was convicted on six of 18 charges against him, in incidents that occurred between 2010 and 2016, his lawyer, Gaby Lasky, said.

Lasky said it was hard to predict whether Amro would face prison time, but that a Palestinian in a similar case received a 10-month term.

A general view of the West Bank city of Hebron July 7, 2017. (Reuters)
A general view of the West Bank city of Hebron July 7, 2017. (Reuters)

Amnesty International said the charges against Amro were “politically motivated and linked to his peaceful work in exposing Israel’s human rights violations”.

The group has also condemned as “disgraceful” charges brought against Amro by the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.

Amnesty said the PA has accused him of “disturbing public order” and “insulting higher authorities” over Facebook posts in 2017 critical of Palestinian leaders.

Amro said his next Palestinian court hearing is on January 20.

Most countries view settlements Israel built on West Bank land captured in a 1967 war as illegal. Israel disputes this, citing biblical and historical connections to the territory, as well as security needs.

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