An Israeli military court convicted on Wednesday a Palestinian activist of incitement and posting symbols of an illegal organization on social media, even though Border Police said he was arrested after participaing in protests in the West Bank.
A month ago, a military officer was filmed kneeling on the head of 60-year-old Khairi Hanoun during a protest in a West Bank village and the footage was widely circulated online, coinciding with the Black Lives Matter protests in the United States, sparked by the death of George Floyd, an African American man who was killed after a police officer knelt on his neck.
Hanoun was arrested two weeks later, and the Border Police said it was "after he was seen participating in a number of riots and actively producing provocations, and even brought on himself a situation in which police had to control him using force. The investigation revealed that he was a person who had often incited online and for that an indictment was filed against him."
The court sentenced Hanoun to a month and a day in prison, and a 1,000-shekel ($300) fine as part of a plea agreement, approved by the judge, who said "the essence of the posts does not include a call for violence."
One of Hanoun's posts included praises of Palestinian martyrs with a photo of a Dalal Mughrabi, a Palestinian militant and member of Fatah who participated in the 1978 attack which killed 35 Israelis. In another post, Hanoun can be seen holding up a sign with the symbol of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, captioned with criticism of U.S. President Donald Trump's Mideast plan and calling on the Palestinian Authority to back out of the Oslo Accords.
Hanoun, a well-known Palestinian activist who often participates in demonstrations in the West Bank, was arrested at his home in the Palestinian town of Anabta.
The indictment included reference to five posts Hanoun wrote on his Facebook profile, the latest of which dates back to the beginning of June. Upon Hanoun's arrest, an army spokesman told Haaretz that he was arrested on suspicion of participating in a violent disturbance, and later was accused of also carrying weapons. The spokesman did not answer Haaretz's question regarding the opening date of the investigation.
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Sahar Francis, director of Addameer, a Palestinian NGO who proided Hanoun with legal representation, claimed that "his arrest is clearly political and connected to the fact that he had filed a complaint against the soldier that was filmed stepping on his neck at the protest, and to the fact that the video went viral."
Regarding his conviction for incitement on Facebook, she added, "Social networks have become a means of control and oppression, instead of allowing freedom of expression. All Palestinian human rights defenders who oppose the occupation suffer from similar harassment."
According to Francis, Palestinians tried in military courts have no choice but to agree to plea bargains, because the time for conducting the procedure is longer than the time for the final sentence of imprisonment.
The Israeli army said in response: "Hanoun was arrested on September 21, 2020, among other things, on suspicion of committing incitement offenses that lasted until June 2020 and possession of weapons. According to the indictment, the latest inciting publication was posted by him on June 7, 2020. Later in his interrogation, newer posts were examined, but were not eventually included in the indictment. Hanoun's detention was extended by the military court for the purpose of interrogation and indictment."
The statement continued by saying "the indictment was filed on September 29, 2020, and already on the day of its filing, Hanoun confessed and was convicted, as part of a plea bargain, and sentenced to one month and one day in prison, along with a suspended sentence and a fine. Regarding the date of the opening of the investigation, the Israel Police should be contacted."