Following eight months under administrative detention and a lengthy trial, Palestinian lawmaker Khalida Jarrar signed a plea bargain that will send her to prison for 15 months.
By Yael Marom
An Israeli military court sentenced Palestinian parliamentarian Khalida Jarrar to 15 months in prison on Sunday. Jarrar, who is a prominent critic of the Palestinian Authority — and specifically its security coordination with Israel — was sentenced after eight months imprisonment, some of which were spent in administrative detention.
As part of a plea bargain, Jarrar admitted to charges of incitement, as well as belonging to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine — a party she represents in the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) — which is defined by Israel as a proscribed organization. Jarrar’s trial included 25 separate hearings. In order to attend each hearing, Jarrar was often forced to travel over 20 hours while handcuffed.
Jarrar was accused on 12 counts, the majority of which involved her parliamentary work and activism, including participation in protests, an interview with the media, a visit to a solidarity tent for Palestinian prisoners, and giving speeches. She was accused of one count of incitement to kidnap soldiers, however the witness on this count stated that he was not sure that he heard Jarrar say anything to this effect.
Jarrar was arrested in April of this year at her home and was placed under house arrest for several months, after she refused to follow an internal expulsion order demanding she move to Jericho within 24 hours for a period of 1.5 years. Following her arrest, Jarrar was placed under administrative attention, which led to a worldwide campaign advocating for her release. She was eventually released from administrative detention and put on trial.
Palestinian member of Knesset and head of the Committee on the Status of Women and Gender Equality Aida Touma Suleiman (Joint List) responded to Jarrar’s sentence, saying that the decision of the “occupation authorities to imprison a member of parliament for her political positions, and after eight months of administrative detention, proves that the government of Israel is seeking to inflame the situation. This government has nothing to propose but instilling fear in Israelis and oppressing and dispossessing Palestinians.
“My friend Khalida Jarrar,” continued Touma, “is a woman who struggles for peace, for the legitimate rights of her people who are living under occupation, for justice, democracy, and equality for women in her society. Her place is not in prison, it is in the parliament.”
Recently, Avi Blecherman exposed how during one of the court hearings, the prosecution’s key witness was presented with seven photos, and asked to identify Jarrar. Six of the seven photos were of men. The judge reprimanded the military prosecution for dragging out the hearings indefinitely, warning that if the pace does not pick up, he will be forced to release her. The prosecution then threatened to forgo the criminal procedure and request she be placed back under administrative detention.
Jarrar was elected to the PLC in January 2006, following years of political activism in support of women and prisoners. She is married, has two daughters, and is the first woman to be elected to the PLC on behalf of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Between 1993 and 2005, she headed the Palestinian NGO Addameer, a Palestinian NGO that supports Palestinian political prisoners held in Israeli and Palestinian prisons, and remained a member of the PFLP’s managing committee even after her election.
Beyond her parliamentary work, Jarrar has been a left-wing and feminist activist for years. Over the past year she has been involved in the Palestinian Authority’s bid to the International Criminal Court over allegations of Israeli war crimes against Palestinians, which many claim is the real reason for her arrest and continued detention.
Jarrar isn’t the only Palestinian lawmaker in prison. According to Addameer, five other members of the PLC are currently imprisoned by Israel, some of them under administrative detention.
Yael Marom is Just Vision’s public engagement manager in Israel and a co-editor of Local Call, where this article was originally published in Hebrew.