Journalists, diplomats kicked out of Ahed Tamimi’s trial

Despite Ahed Tamimi’s request for her trial to be open to the public, military judge rules that it will take place behind closed doors.

By Oren Ziv

Ahed Tamimi during the first hearing of her trial at the Ofer prison military court. February 13, 2018. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Ahed Tamimi during the first hearing of her trial at the Ofer prison military court. February 13, 2018. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Dozens of diplomats, journalists, photographers, and supporters arrived at the Ofer Military prison Tuesday morning for the opening hearing in the trial of Ahed Tamimi, the 17 year old from Nabi Saleh. The judge, however, ruled that the trial would take place behind closed doors to protect Ahed’s interests, ordering everyone in the courtroom, except for Ahed’s family members to leave.

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Tamimi was arrested on December 19 when the army raided her home in the middle of the night, following the publication of a video showing her attempting to push armed Israeli soldiers off of her family’s porch. She has been imprisoned since then. A military court denied bail to Ahed and her mother, Nariman, who was also arrested, ruling that they would remain in prison until the end of their trials.

Nariman was arrested the day after Ahed and is charged with incitement for livestreaming the video, which later went viral.

Ahed Tamimi faces 12 different charges in her indictment, regarding five different incidents. The charges related to the video are assault of a soldier, disrupting the work of a soldier, and incitement. That video was filmed shortly after soldiers shot Mohammed Tamimi, Ahed’s 15-year-old cousin, in the head with a rubber-coated bullet, severely wounding him; part of his skull was removed, and he was in a coma for several days.

Mohammed Tamimi, 15, was shot in the head with a rubber-coated bullet by the Israeli army shortly before the video of Ahed and Nur was filmed. (Activestills/Oren Ziv)

Mohammed Tamimi, 15, was shot in the head with a rubber-coated bullet by the Israeli army shortly before the video of Ahed and Nur was filmed. (Activestills/Oren Ziv)

The trials of minors are typically held behind closed doors to protect the minors. According to Attorney Gaby Lasky, who is representing Ahed, the best defense would be to open the trial to public scrutiny. Lasky intends to appeal the decision, arguing that it is Ahed’s right to decide whether the trial will take place behind closed doors or will be open to the public. Ahed was said to be planning to read a public statement at the hearing, which was made impossible by the judge’s decision.

“The court understands that this trial interests many people outside of the courtroom, that people know that her [Ahed’s] rights are being violated and that this trial is entirely unnecessary,” Lasky said following the judge’s decision. “The way to keep the story out of view of the public is to close the doors.”

“All of the proceedings until now were open to the public,” Lasky added. “Closed door proceedings are supposed to protect the minor, not the court. So when the parents and the girl herself want and think it’s important to have the proceedings open to the public, the decision to close the doors is not intended to protect Ahed but to protect the court from public scrutiny.”

Basssem Tamimi, Ahed’s father, said following the hearing that the decision to conduct proceedings behind closed doors was an attempt to mask that “there is no justice under occupation.” He added that the decision to close the hearing to the public was not intended to protect Ahed but the court.

“Protect Ahed from whom? From their soldiers? Our enemies are not the audience or the media,” Bassem said. “We don’t trust this court and we don’t trust this system. We are afraid that something will happen to Ahed and her mother.” Bassem said his sister died in military prison, which is why he fears for Ahed’s safety and wants the hearings made public.

Gaby Lasky, Ahed Tamimi's attorney, and Bassem Tamimi, Ahed's father, outside of the Ofer military prison. February 13, 2018. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Gaby Lasky, Ahed Tamimi’s attorney, and Bassem Tamimi, Ahed’s father, outside of the Ofer military prison. February 13, 2018. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

The Israeli military court system’s treatment of minors has been widely criticized by international human rights organizations. In 2013, UNICEF published a report describing the poor treatment of Palestinian children held in Israeli military detention as “widespread, systematic, and institutionalized.” In 2015, despite concerns raised by the international community, the army suspended a pilot program meant to decrease the number of Palestinian children arrested in nighttime raids, like the one in which Ahed was arrested.

Tuesday’s proceedings were short. The military prosecutor read the charges against Ahed, but Lasky declined to respond, saying that she had not received the investigation materials, and would not respond to the charges until she had. The next hearing will take place in March.

“Today we made preliminary claims against the legitimacy of the occupation and this court,” Lasky said. She called the Ahed’s indictment “inflated and out of proportion, in some parts reflecting severe discrimination.”

Since her arrest, Ahed Tamimi has become an international symbol of Palestinian resistance to the occupation. Prominent actors, authors, and musicians signed a letter, published Monday by Dream Defenders, a Florida-based racial justice organization, calling for Ahed’s release. The signatories include Daniel Glover, Rosario Dawson, Cornel West, Angela Davis, and others.

Pentagon Fires War Court Official Who Was Attempting to Negotiate End to Guantánamo Death-Penalty Trial

The sudden firing by U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis (left) of the Pentagon official who oversaw military commission trials at Guantánamo Bay has raised concerns of political interference in the already tumultuous legal proceedings in the death-penalty trials of the five men charged with plotting the 9/11 attacks on the United States. The New York Times reports that Mattis fired Harvey Rishikof (right), who served as the Convening Authority of the Guantánamo tribunals, as Rishikof was engaged in plea negotiations that would potentially have spared the Guantánamo defendants the death penalty in exchange for pleading guilty to the September 11 attacks. The Pentagon provided no explanation for the February 5 firing, and David Nevin—who represents accused attack-mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed—told The Times that “[t]he firing fairly raises the question” of whether the Pentagon was attempting to unlawfully influence the convening authority. The Office of the Convening Authority is responsible for approving cases for trial, plea agreements, reviewing convictions and sentences, and providing resources to defense teams. Military law prohibits even the appearance of “unlawful command influence” over the handling of a case. Nevin said the defense has “an obligation to try to learn everything we can” about possible improper influence, and he has asked prosecutors to turn over information relating to Rishikof’s firing. At the same time Rishikof was dismissed, the Pentagon’s acting general counsel, William S. Castle discharged Rishikof’s legal advisor Gary Brown, also without explanation. Brown and Rishikof’s firings have focused renewed attention on the dysfunctional military tribunals at Guantánamo. The death-penalty trial of Abd al Rahim al Nashiri, accused of planning the bombing of the U.S.S. Cole in Yemen, was thrown into chaos in October 2017 when his entire civilian defense team resigned amid allegations that military officials had violated attorney-client privilege by eavesdropping on legal meetings at the Cuban facility. Rishikof intervened in that case after the judge, Air Force Colonel Vance Spath, held the chief defense counsel for the Military Commissions Defense Organization, Marine Brig. Gen. John Baker, in contempt for allowing the resignations. Spath has directed that proceedings in the U.S.S. Cole case continue without expert death-penalty counsel, even though the only remaining member of Nashiri’s defense team, Lieutenant Alaric Piette, graduated law school in 2012, does not meet the American Bar Association standards for death-penalty defense, and has never tried any murder case. During a January 2018 pretrial hearing in the case, Spath criticized Piette for seeking a continuance in the case until expert death-penalty counsel could be appointed, telling Piette to “engage in self help” by attending special training to become “more comfortable handling capital matters.” On February 5, Piette, who stayed on the case out of concern for his client’s rights, told The New York Times: “I don’t know if I’ve done the right thing, but I don’t think I really had a choice.” Piette “doesn’t come close to being qualified” to handle the case, according to Ellen Yaroshefsky, a professor of legal ethics at Hofstra University. “So a death penalty case is basically going forward without a lawyer. If that is what we think passes as a court system, we’re in big trouble,” she said. 

(Charlie Savage, Fired Official Was Exploring Resolution to 9/11 Case Precluding Death Penalty, New York Times, February 10, 2018; Carol Rosenberg, Secretary of Defense fires Guantánamo war court overseer, Miami Herald, February 5, 2018; Dave Philipps, Many Say He’s the Least Qualified Lawyer Ever to Lead a Guantánamo Case. He Agrees., New York Times, February 5, 2018; Carol Rosenberg, Military judge to lone USS Cole lawyer: ‘Engage in self-help’ to learn capital defense, Miami Herald, January 23, 2018.) See U.S. Military and Representation.

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Israel to boycott Paris film festival over ‘Foxtrot’ screening

Nathan Schmidt / Bethlehem

Israel’s embassy in France have announced that they will not be attending the Israeli Film Festival which be showing the film Foxtrot opening night.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry accused the Israel Film Festival organisers of not heading the Ministry’s advice and a ‘more suitable’ film for the event ‘which will include an audience of Jewish donors’.

‘Foxtrot’, directed by Samuel Moaz, depicts the cover up of the death of Palestinian teenagers by the Israeli army.

In an interview with left-wing paper Haaretz on Monday, festival director Helene Schoumann defended the decision to play the film, stating, ‘I really love the movie. I don’t see anything against Israel whatever … So I won’t cancel it. Of course not.’

In an interview with Variety Magazine, Moaz defended his film, saying ‘every humanistic society should strive to be better, to improve itself. And the basic and necessary condition for improvement is the ability to accept self-criticism.’

Moaz’s previous work includes ‘Lebanon’, a 2006 film depicting the 1982 Lebanon War. The film critical of the war and the damning effects of conscription. It Leone d’Oro at the Venice Film Festival.

Last year, ‘Foxtrot’ was awarded the Grand Jury Prize at the 2017 Venice Film Festival and was nominated to the short list for the 90th Academy Awards.

Israel’s cultural minister, Miri Regev, has targeted the film in several statements and interviews in which she claims ‘Foxtrot’ was “boosting BDS and Israel’s enemies” and showed “Israeli army soldiers in a deceptive manner as murderers and harms the good name of the Israel Defence Forces.’

 

BDS organisations have widely mocked the boycott.

‘Boycott the Israeli film festival in Paris? Israel’s doing it,’ said EuroPalestine, a European based organisation supporting BDS.

Regev said she would take steps to prevent the Israeli governmet from supporting the Paris festival.

‘Foxtrot’ and Samuel Moaz’s former works have been accused of fitting into the category of ‘Shooting and Crying’, an Israeli fictional canon in which the depravity of occupation and Israeli’s military endeavours are criticised morally yet fail to address systematic issues or drum up meaningful change.

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“The odds of a bad outcome have gone up,” Blankfein told CNN on Wednesday.

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