Israeli court adjourns trial of Palestinian teenager Ahed Tamimi until March after closed hearing

Israeli court adjourns trial of Palestinian teenager Ahed Tamimi until March after closed hearing
5 min read
13 February, 2018
The trial of the 17-year-old Palestinian, who slapped an Israeli soldier, has been adjourned until March, following anger after the judge banned all observers from court except family.
Tamimi appears in Ofer military court on Tuesday morning [AP]
The trial of Ahed Tamimi, the Palestinian teenager-turned-resistance icon, has been adjourned until March 11, it was announced on Tuesday during the first day of her trial in Ofer military court near Jerusalem.

The military judge in charge of the trial caused upset when he ordered the trial to take place behind closed doors, in doing so banning all journalists, diplomats and rights researchers from observing proceedings.

The judge ruled that open proceedings would not be in the interest of the 17-year-old, who is being tried as a minor.

Only family members were allowed to remain in the courtroom. 

A large crowd of local and international journalists had shown up to cover the trial of Tamimi, who has become something of an icon for Palestinians and supporters of their cause worldwide.

A group of 27 prominent US writers, activists, musicians and Hollywood actors also signed a petition calling for the teenager's release on Monday.

Trials of minors in military court are typically closed, but Tamimi's lawyer said previous hearings for the teenager were open and she argued for it to remain that way.

"They understand that people outside Ofer military court are interested in Ahed's case, they understand that her rights are being infringed and her trial is something that shouldn't be happening," Tamimi's lawyer Gaby Lasky told journalists after having unsuccessfully objected to the judge's decision to close the trial.

"So the way to keep it out of everybody's eyes is to close doors and not allow people inside the court for her hearing."

Tamimi arrived at the military court near Jerusalem in the occupied West Bank dressed in a prison jacket with her hands and feet shackled, smiling slightly as journalists photographed her. 

Her father Bassem Tamimi waved to her from the audience, yelling out "stay strong, you will win."

Closed-door proceedings were held for a couple hours before adjourning. Lasky said she argued that the trial could not move forward because Israel's occupation of the West Bank and its court system there is illegal.

Prosecutors requested more time to prepare a response and a new date was set for March 11, according to Lasky.

Lasky added that she would make a new request to have the trial opened.

Bassem Tamimi told journalists after the adjournment that "having people attend the court - journalists, consuls, diplomats, observers and lawyers - is very important because it keeps them safe and makes us feel that those in court are safe."

Tamimi has been hailed as a hero both by Palestinians and internationally who see her as bravely standing up to Israel's occupation of the West Bank.

Israelis accuse her family of using her as a pawn in staged provocations.

She has been charged with 12 counts including assault and could face up to 14 years in jail if convicted.

The charges relate to events in the video and five other incidents. They include stone-throwing, incitement and making threats.

Criticism of case

Tamimi's mother, Nariman, and her cousin Nour, 20, were also due to go on trial later Tuesday.

Ahed Tamimi and her mother have been ordered to stay in custody until the end of the proceedings, while her cousin has been released on bail.

The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has criticised Israeli authorities' actions in the case, while the European Union has expressed concern over Israel's detention of minors, including Ahed Tamimi.

Amnesty International has called for her immediate release, saying her "continued detention is a desperate attempt to intimidate Palestinian children who dare to stand up to repression by occupying forces."

"By refusing to release Ahed Tamimi since her arrest, the Israeli authorities have shown nothing but contempt for their obligations under international law to protect children,” said Magdalena Mughrabi from Amnesty International. 

“As an unarmed girl, Ahed posed no threat during the altercation with the two Israeli soldiers who were heavily armed and wearing protective clothing.

“Yet again, the Israeli authorities have responded to acts of defiance by a Palestinian child with measures that are entirely disproportionate to the incident in question,” Magdalena Mughrabi said.

Ahed Tamimi's family have repeatedly argued that the December 15 incident that led to the arrests occurred in the yard of their own home in Nabi Saleh, near Ramallah in the West Bank.

The Israeli military claim the soldiers were in the area to prevent Palestinians from throwing stones at Israeli motorists.

The video shows the cousins approaching two soldiers and ordering them to leave before shoving, kicking and slapping them.

As an unarmed girl, Ahed posed no threat during the altercation with the two Israeli soldiers who were heavily armed and wearing protective clothing

The heavily armed soldiers do not respond to what appears to be an attempt to provoke rather than seriously harm them.

They then move backwards after Nariman Tamimi becomes involved.

The scuffle took place amid clashes and protests against US President Donald Trump's controversial recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

Mohammed Tamimi, a cousin of Ahed, was seriously wounded by a rubber bullet fired at his head during those protests.

Twenty-three Palestinians have been killed since Trump's declaration on December 6, most of them in clashes with Israeli forces. Two Israelis have been killed since then.

Ahed Tamimi, who comes from a family of prominent activists, has been involved in a series of previous incidents, with older pictures of her confronting soldiers widely published.

Palestinians and international supporters have flooded social media with praise and messages of solidarity.

See in pictures: Ahed Tamimi resisting occupation through the years