An Israeli military court has convicted a Palestinian activist, regarded by the EU as a human rights defender, for “interfering” with the work of a soldier, his lawyer said Tuesday.
Abdullah Abu Rahma, who spent 15 months behind bars for organizing weekly demonstrations against Israel’s separation barrier in the village of Bil’in, was convicted on Monday at Ofer military court near the West Bank city of Ramallah.
He had been released from prison in March 2011 with a four-month suspended sentence.
“He was convicted of interfering with the work of a soldier,” his lawyer Gaby Laskey told AFP, saying the conviction was for an incident in May 2012 when Abu Rahma tried to prevent a tractor from working to set up a fence in the nearby village of Beitunia.
The conviction means he risks being thrown back in jail for another four months, she said. In the West Bank, a suspended sentence order remains in force for five years.
The court will pass sentence on December 1.
“Abdullah Abu Rahma is a human rights defender, he has the right to demonstrate against the occupation and there is no legal basis for his arrest,” she said.
“It seems that prosecuting a Palestinian for a non-violent symbolic act against the occupation has more of a political meaning than a criminal one.”
A school teacher in his mid-40s, Abu Rahma is known for coordinating the grassroots, unarmed protest movement against the West Bank security barrier in Bil’in.
His arrest in 2009 and subsequent conviction over the Bil’in protests prompted expressions of concern from human rights groups as well as from EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who has described him as a “human rights defender” committed to nonviolent protest.