Israeli Army Charges Palestinian Astrophysicist With Incitement to Violence and Terrorism

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Imad Barghouthi.
Imad Barghouthi.

Just three days after the military court of appeals seemed poised to release Palestinian astrophysicist Prof. Imad Barghouthi from jail and cancel the administrative detention order against him, army prosecutors indicted the 54-year-old scientist Sunday on charges of incitement. 

Haaretz reported Friday that the Palestinian Prisoner's Club was optimistic that the military court of appeals would release Barghouti if there were no last-minute surprises.

Jawad Boulos, the director of the legal department of the Palestinian Prisoner's Club, said Sunday morning that before Barghouthi's release he was transferred to a Shin Bet security service facility for further interrogation and the announcement came later in the day that it had been decided to indict Barghouthi for incitement to violence.

Boulos called the decision scandalous and said it indicated clearly that the authorities in Israel are using baseless claims to oppress the Palestinians. He noted that on Thursday the military court had ruled that Barghouthi did not constitute a danger and ordered him released and that only two days later evidence was presented sufficient to prosecute him. 

Security officials confirmed that Barghouthi would be indicted and said that during his detention evidence of incitement accumulated and that the state was working hard to fight incitement to violence and terror.

Barghouthi, who lives in the village of Beit Rima near Ramallah and is a lecturer at al-Quds University in East Jerusalem, was arrested on April 24 and put in administrative detention for three months. The ruling of the military court of appeals Thursday to release Barghouthi, who has been in administrative detention for more than a month at the time, went against the position of the state.  The military judge determined that Barghouthi's membership and activities in Hamas were not a sufficient reason to hold him and ordered his release Sunday. 

During the hearing, Boulos, who is representing Barghouthi, presented the court a petition calling for his immediate release signed by more than 350 academics worldwide.  

Signatories to the petition presented to the court included eminent researchers Freeman Dyson, Professor Emeritus of Physics at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton; Fields Medal laureate David Mumford, Professor Emeritus of Mathematics at Brown University; and Chandler Davis, Professor Emeritus of Mathematics at the University of Toronto. Notable pro-Palestinian scholar Noam Chomsky also signed the petition. 

The petition stated that Barghouthi's arrest was part of a broader oppression of the Palestinian education system. It said that Gaza University had been bombarded many times and Bir Zeit University had been closed at least 15 times by the Israeli army and its former president had been deported, adding that students and lecturers were often arrested because of their Facebook posts.

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