Palestinian activist sent to prison for ‎riding a bike in his village

An Israeli military court sentenced Abdullah Abu Rahma, a recognized human rights defender, to 110 days in prison for riding a bicycle during a protest against the occupation two years ago.

Abdullah Abu Rahmah being arrested by Border Police in Bil'in, May 13, 2016

Abdullah Abu Rahma being arrested by Border Police in Bil’in, May 13, 2016

An Israeli military court sentenced renowned Palestinian activist Abdullah Abu Rahma to four months in prison on Wednesday, for two charges stemming from a bicycle race to mark Nakba Day in 2016.

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Abu Rahma, one of the most well-known leaders of the popular struggle against the separation wall, was convicted several weeks ago of violating a closed military zone order and obstructing a soldier during a race in May 2016 in Bil’in, where he is from. Hundreds of Palestinian and international cyclists participated in the so-called “return ride,” which kicked off in Ramallah and ended in the West Bank village.

Israeli security forces raided the village before the race even began, however. Abu Rahma was arrested while trying to explain to the soldiers that they were on his land. He was thrown to the ground, arrested, and held in detention for 11 days.

Nearly all forms of protest are illegal for Palestinians living under Israeli military rule in the West Bank.

On Wednesday, Israeli Military Judge Maj. Haim Baliti agreed to let Abu Rahma begin serving his sentence in mid-December, so as to give the defense time to appeal both the sentence and conviction.

Baliti also applied part of a suspended sentence from another, earlier conviction for participating in another protest a year earlier. The suspended sentence was triggered by the current conviction. Abu Rahma will serve a total of 110 days in an Israeli military prison.

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“Abdullah is a human rights defender,” said Gaby Lasky, his attorney following the sentencing. “He nonviolently opposes the occupation — that’s what makes him such an important target. As long as he is in prison, he cannot be out in the field.”

“These punishments for ongoing nonviolent resistance indicates that the military court is not a court of justice; its sole purpose is to maintain the occupation and to prevent any resistance to it,” added Lasky.

Abdullah Abu Rahme seen in Ofer Military Court, November 14, 2018. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Abdullah Abu Rahma and his attorney, Gaby Lasky, seen in Ofer Military Court for his sentencing hearing, November 14, 2018. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Abu Rahma, who in 2010 was recognized as a “human rights defender” dedicated to nonviolence, is one of the most prominent leaders in the struggle against the wall, and helped head the popular protests in Bil’in starting in 2005.

He has spent over a year in prison for his role in Bil’in’s protests, and is currently facing another set of charges for allegedly damaging the gate of the separation barrier in his home village.

In 2010, +972 Magazine named Abu Rahma its “person of the year” for his role in Bil’in’s “well-organized, non-violent grassroots opposition movement – one that brings together Palestinians, Israelis and international supporters in a joint struggle.”

“I feel angry and sad about the decision,” Abu Rahma said at the end of the hearing. “This is not a real court — it is a political court. I will pay the price, but this punishment will encourage me to continue supporting the people wherever they may be — that is my duty as a Palestinian, until the occupation is gone and gain independence.”

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