Soldier-slapper’s trial to be closed to public after appeal fails

Ahed Tamimi’s attorney claims public exposure is 17-year-old’s ‘only defense,’ but military judge says decision is ‘in the best interest of the minor’

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US bureau chief

Seventeen-year-old Palestinian Ahed Tamimi, right, arrives for the beginning of her trial in the Israeli military court at Ofer military prison in the West Bank village of Betunia, February 13, 2018. (Thomas Coex/AFP)
Seventeen-year-old Palestinian Ahed Tamimi, right, arrives for the beginning of her trial in the Israeli military court at Ofer military prison in the West Bank village of Betunia, February 13, 2018. (Thomas Coex/AFP)

A petition to allow the trial of 17-year-old Palestinian Ahed Tamimi be open to the public was denied by the Military Court of Appeals on Monday.

Tamimi was arrested four months ago after being filmed slapping and shoving IDF soldiers in her West Bank village of Nebi Saleh.

Explaining his decision, Judge Gilad Peretz wrote that he did he not feel that he had the authority to overrule the court’s original decision on February 13.

He added that the original decision to hold the trial behind closed doors was legitimate because “it is in the best interest of the minor.”

Tamimi’s attorney Gaby Lasky said that in his original ruling, Ofer Military Court Judge Menachem Lieberman granted the defense the right to appeal the decision.

“And even if he hadn’t, it shouldn’t have taken the appeals court over a month to realize that it didn’t feel comfortable making a decision,” she told The Times of Israel.

Gaby Lasky, attorney of Ahed Tamimi, speaks with Tamimi’s father, Bassem, outside the Ofer Military Court on December 20, 2017. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

While Lasky recognized that juvenile courts in Israel proper primarily hold their trials behind closed doors out of what they also consider to be the best interest of the minor, that is not always the case, especially when the parents request otherwise.

Lasky blasted the court’s decision to continue proceedings “in the dark.”

“Public exposure is the only defense at the disposal of Ahed, and it is clear that without it, in a secret trial, she cannot receive a fair trial,” she said.

Tamimi’s trial for slapping a soldier guarding near her home has drawn attention from around the globe, highlighting the teen’s image as a Palestinian icon. She has become a cause célèbre for Palestinian supporters, and rallies have been held in several locations calling for her release

Many Palestinians see her as bravely standing up to military control over the West Bank, while Israelis accuse her family of using her as a pawn.


This file photo taken on May 12, 2017 shows 17-year-old Ahed Tamimi (C) protesting before Israeli forces in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh, north of Ramallah. (AFP/Abbas Momani)

On the first day of her trial over a month ago, the judged presiding over her case at the Ofer Military Court walked into the tribunal and immediately announced that the proceeding would be held behind closed doors, disappointing the over 200 journalists, diplomats and human rights activists that had stuffed into the tribunal to watch.

Only family members were allowed to remain in the courtroom, and diplomats present to observe were also asked to leave.

Menachem Lieberman cited the “best interest of the minor” in justifying the move, but Tamimi’s attorney Lasky objected, explaining that both the minor and her parents wanted the trial to be open to the public.

While Lieberman stood by his decision, he allowed Lasky to appeal the decision. While a hearing on that appeal had been scheduled for earlier this month, it was delayed twice until Monday, further prolonging the 17-year-old’s trial in the process.

With Monday’s rejection the trial is slated to continue behind closed doors on Wednesday at the Ofer Military Court.

Just over a month after her December 19 arrest, a separate military judge ruled to extend her remand until the end of proceedings against her.

The same ruling was given against Ahed  Tamimi’s mother, Nariman Tamimi, who also appeared in the widely shared footage. Ahed’s cousin Nour Tamimi was released after being charged for her participation in the December 15 incident.

Ahed Tamimi earlier told the court that the same soldiers featured in the video had shot her cousin in the head with a rubber bullet an hour before the filmed encounter.

The three Tamimis are facing aggravated assault charges. Ahed’s 12-count indictment also includes a statement she gave to her mother, who was filming the incident and streaming it on Facebook.

Immediately following the squabble, Nariman asked her daughter what kind of message she wanted to convey to viewers.

“I hope that everyone will take part in the demonstrations as this is the only means to achieve the result,” she said. “Our strength is in our stones. Whether it is stabbings or suicide bombings or throwing stones, everyone must do their part and we must unite in order for our message to be heard that we want to liberate Palestine,” Tamimi said.

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