Trial Continues for Issa Amro in Israeli Military Court on Charges Related to Peaceful Protest
The trial of Palestinian human rights defender Issa Amro continued Sunday in Israeli military court on 18 charges against Mr. Amro for peaceful protest Israel’s theft of Palestinian lands, illegal settlement project and discriminatory policies.
Three witnesses - Deputy of the Civil Administration (a high ranking officer in the Israeli military), a solider who filmed the demonstration and a Border Patrol Officer - testified against Mr. Amro regarding the charges from the February 2016 Open Shuhada Street protest. Open Shuhada Street is Youth Against Settlements annual campaign to reopen Shuhada Street in Hebron, once the main marketplace and thoroughfare in Hebron, which has remained almost entirely closed to Palestinians since the 1994 massacre of 29 Palestinians in the Ibrahimi mosque by an American born Israeli settler Baruch Goldstein.
The witnesses stated that Mr. Amro was the lead organizer of protests against the Israeli authorities in the city of Hebron, and discussed his role in organizing, and attending the Open Shuhada Street demonstration. The witnesses also stated that Mr. Amro was present in a closed military zone when the demonstration took place and accused him of inciting against the Israeli occupation, including in his call to open Shuhada street in the old city of Hebron.
All details of Mr. Amro’s trial must be viewed in the context that “public order” is the maintenance of occupation and segregation. The military court’s conviction rate is over 99%. Mr. Amro’s trial takes place within the context of increasing crackdowns and settlement expansion by Israel. The following events affecting Hebron occurred in the last few months:
Settlers are continuing to occupy the Abu Rajab home in Hebron, which they forcibly entered in July. The settlers claim they purchased the home but the Palestinian owners contest this. Courts and the say the settlers have not been able to provide valid evidence of purchase. On October 22, the Israeli state even called on the High Court of Justice to force the removal of the settlers. This has not taken place yet. Instead, the army is continuing to maintain a military post at the base of the house for the settlers.
- This month the US withdrew from UNESCO, citing an anti-Israel bias. Israel quickly followed suit. The withdrawal is seen as retribution for UNESCO’s declaration in July of Hebron a Palestinian World Heritage Site in danger. UNESCO accurately recognized that the site is holy to all three faiths while also accurately locating the site and city as a Palestinian territory.
On October 17, the Israeli army raided eight media offices across the West Bank. They confiscated media equipment and closed some of the offices. The raid was condemned as an attack on freedom of speech.
On July 16, Israeli approved 31 new settlement housing units to be built in Hebron on Shuhada Street, the road is closed almost entirely to Palestinians. If the construction goes through it will be the first settlement construction in Hebron’s old city in 15 years. It will further increase the restrictions and violence Palestinians face.
Mr. Amro has received worldwide attention and acclaim for his leadership of nonviolent resistance to Israel’s occupation and settlement enterprise. He was declared 2010 UN human rights defender of the year for Palestine and designated by the European Union as a Human Rights Defender in 2013 and 2016. In 2016, his case was included in the US Department of State report on human rights in Israel and the OPT. In June 2017, four senators sent a letter to the State Department inquiring about his case, and 32 representatives sent a separate letter urging Israel to drop the charges against him. Additional letters have also been sent by other Members of Congress.