The military trial of a Palestinian teenager, who was arrested after a video posted online showed her hitting two IDF soldiers in the West Bank, began Tuesday behind closed doors.
The judge in the trial at the Ofer military court ordered journalists removed from the courtroom, ruling that open proceedings would not be in the interest of 17-year-old Ahed Tamimi, who is being tried as a minor.
Only family members were allowed to remain in the courtroom, and diplomats present to observe were also asked to leave.
She has been charged with 12 counts including assault and could face a lengthy prison term if convicted.
The charges relate to events in the video and five other incidents. They include stone-throwing, incitement and making threats.
A large crowd of journalists had shown up to cover the legal proceedings against Tamimi, whose case has gained international attention.
Tamimi, who has been incarcerated for nearly two months, was seen whispering across the courtroom to her family.
Her father, Bassem Tamimi, shouted, “Stay strong!”
He told The Associated Press as he headed into the court that he came “with no good expectations, because this a military court, and it’s part of the Israeli military occupation.”
Trials of minors in military court are typically closed, but Tamimi’s lawyer said previous hearings for the teenager had been open and she argued for it to remain that way.
“They understand that people outside Ofer military court are interested in Ahed’s case, they understand that her rights are being infringed on and her trial is something that shouldn’t be happening,” lawyer Gaby Lasky told journalists after having unsuccessfully objected to the judge’s decision to close the trial.
“So the way to keep it out of everybody’s eyes is to close doors and not allow people inside the court for her hearing,” she said.
Tamimi celebrated her 17th birthday in prison at the end of January after a military judge ordered her remanded until the end of proceedings against her.
Ahed Tamimi’s mother, Nariman Tamimi, who also appeared in the widely shared footage, was also remanded until the end of proceedings. Ahed’s cousin Nour Tamimi was released after being charged for her participation in the December 15 incident.
Ahed Tamimi has said 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 refers to a statement she gave to her mother — who was filming the incident and streaming it on Facebook — in which she called for more violence. 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,” Tamimi 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.”
Earlier this month attorney Lasky told The Times of Israel that the trial, which had been slated to begin on January 31, has been twice delayed because the military prosecution had failed to hand over evidence.
Since her arrest Tamimi 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.
Jacob Magid contributed to this report.