Israel Indicts 16 Bedouin Over Negev Protests Against JNF Tree-planting

Suspects accused of throwing stones and rioting during protests against what Bedouin protesters say is a JNF seizure of farmland

Nati Yefet
Nati Yefet
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Police arrest a protester in the Negev, last week.
Police arrest a protester in the Negev, last week.Credit: Eliyahu Hershkovitz
Nati Yefet
Nati Yefet

Sixteen Israeli Bedouin, including three minors, were indicted on Thursday for allegedly committing crimes during protests in the Negev against Jewish National Fund forestation work on land used by residents for agriculture.

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Clashes broke out on several days last week accusing the JNF of a land grab. On Tuesday, police said 96 Bedouin had since the demonstrations began. A prominent advocacy group put the number at 155, with about a third of them minors.

The charges submitted to court on Thursday were split between four indictments. One indictment was against eight people accused of throwing stones at policemen and police cars during a protest organized by former lawmaker Talab al-Sana. One of them was also accused of burning tires.

A request to extend their detention until the completion of legal proceedings was also filed. The request asserted that evidence against the suspects includes cameras from police body cameras, police reports from officers who saw some of them throwing stones, reports about a highway being blocked "as a result of the rioting," and testimony from a civilian who stumbled onto the scene and had stones at his car.

Only one of the eight has a criminal record. Attorney Moti Yosef, representing one of the other seven – 28-year-old Tawfiq Al-Atrash Musawa – told a judge on Wednesday that his client was on his way home from a bus station and was not involved with in the unrest.

Another indictment was filed against two young men, aged 19 and 20, who are alleged to have taken part in a mass storming of the area where tree-planting was taking place last Wednesday. According to the indictment, one of the suspects threw stones at police when officers tried to remove protesters, and the other threw a stone at one of the arresting officers.

Two other indictments, which are against six people, were not published because three of the suspects are 17.

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