Palestinian Activist Detained Hours After Protest, Charged With Assaulting Israeli Soldier

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Sami Huraini, left, protesting against the shooting of Harun Abu Aram prior to his arrest.
Sami Huraini, left, protesting against the shooting of Harun Abu Aram prior to his arrest.Credit: Natasha Westheimer

Israel’s military prosecution on Wednesday indicted a Palestinian activist for assaulting a soldier during a joint Palestinian-Israeli demonstration in the West Bank Friday to protest the shooting of another Palestinian, Harun Abu Aram, during a confrontation with soldiers in the Hebron Hills earlier this month.

Abu Aram was shot in the neck and gravely wounded when Israel Defense Forces troops came to confiscate a generator in the village of al-Rakiz. The IDF said its investigation revealed that Abu Aram was shot by mistake and that the troops believed their life was in danger.

The demonstration near al-Rakiz, January 8, 2021.Credit: Ori Givati

According to the indictment, Sami Huraini, 24, from the village of al-Tawani, pushed a soldier during Friday’s demonstration, struck him with a flag and kicked him. He is charged with obstructing a soldier and violating a military closure order. Huraini was arrested hours after the protest, at about 1 A.M., at his home.

In a video filmed by Israeli activists during the demonstration, a Border Police officer is heard calling to Huraini: “You’re a main instigator, I’m arresting you.” However, the arrest itself took place much later.

Huraini, who was in custody since early Saturday morning, was released only on Wednesday, after the indictment was filed. A condition of his release was for him to pledge to appear at the Hebron police station on Friday from 8 A.M. to 3 P.M., the hours during which most of the protests in the West Bank are held, as well as not to organize or take part in any protest.

Border Police officer tells Harini he is 'a main instigator' during the demonstration.Credit: Ori Givati

Huraini, who is represented by attorneys Reham Nasra and Gabi Lasky, is an activist from al-Tawani, near where Abu Aram was shot. He is a member of Youth of Sumud, a group of activists in the South Hebron Hills. Two days after his arrest, five Israeli activists who were at the protest came of their own volition to the Kiryat Arba police station to testify about the incident.

“I was near Sami throughout almost the whole demonstration and that can be seen from the videos – he wasn’t violent at any time and he didn’t touch anyone,” Oriel Eisner, one of the activists who came to the police station, told Haaretz.

Videos of the protest show that it took place partly on the road to the village of al-Rakiz and the outpost of Avigail, and the parts that were filmed appeared calm. Neither the police nor the army have presented a video of the alleged assault.

According to Eisner, the only time that protesters came into contact with security forces was when the latter were standing in a line to block the protesters from reaching the road, and the protesters breached that line. Eisner added that some of the security personnel pushed the protesters in an attempt to move them away from the road, but this happened very briefly.

Regarding the charge that Huraini violated a military closure order, Eisner as well as another activist, Renana Na’aman, who testified to the police, said no military closure order was presented to the protesters and no announcement was made. The indictment states that Huraini “incited and called for escalation of the protest,” but other protesters who were there said that this was not the case. “This was very clearly a non-violent protest,” Na’aman said. “No stone was raised, there were drums, flags and signs. The only violence came from the soldiers at a certain point: Without any threat directed against them, they fired tear gas and stun grenades.”

The IDF responded: “The suspect was arrested by security forces on suspicion of involvement in violent assault on IDF troops, who were acting to protect the security and public order in an incident last Friday near al-Tawani.” It said that the investigation was still under way.

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