Amnesty Int’l: Abdallah Abu Rahmah a prisoner of conscience

Hours after Abdallah Abu Rahmah’s sentence was extended by an Israeli military court, Amnesty International has labeled the Bil’in organizer a prisoner of conscience. The Amnesty press release stated that, “Amnesty International believes Abdallah Abu Rahmah to be a prisoner of conscience, jailed solely for the peaceful exercise of his right to freedom of expression and assembly. As such we call for his immediate and unconditional release.” Recently, Catherine Ashton, the Foreign Policy Chief of the European Union, labeled Abdallah Abu Rahmah a ‘human rights defender’ and called for his immediate release.

This morning a military judge read Abdallah’s appeal verdict to a packed courtroom which included diplomatic representative from Malta, United Kingdom, Austria, France, Sweden, Spain, Italy, the European Commission as well as the heads of consulate of Germany and Spain. The judge agreed to the military prosecution’s request for a harsher sentence and stated

Abdallah Abu Rahmah did not choose to carry out his struggle using recognised or accepted methods of freedom of expression.  In addition he chose to include others in his actions.  Instead of giving him a round of applause the court should recognize that he has been a part of a violent struggle which has continued over a long period of time.  Abdallah is a member of an organisation which disturbs the public order by carrying out acts which have been pre-planned, not taken spontaneously.”

Gaby Lasky, Abdallah Abu Rahmah’s lawyer told the press that, ““Israel has tried violent means to hinder and stop the popular unarmed demonstrations in the West Bank. Military courts are an instrument of the occupation and their verdicts are devised to help the occupation continue. This decision makes a mockery of the law and justice itself.”

Israel’s stance towards Abu Rahmah and the unarmed demonstrations in general is clearly at odds with that of the European Union and Amnesty International. Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa is quoted in the press release, “by extending Abdallah Abu Rahmah’s sentence the Israeli authorities appear to be seeking not only to punish him further in a case where the prosecution’s evidence was questionable to begin with, but to deter others from participating in legitimate protests.” Amnesty International has called for the immediate release of Abdallah Abu Rahmah from Israeli military prison.