Israel will free Araqeeb village head, on condition of deportation

The Israeli Prison Service (IPS) yesterday rejected the demand to release prisoner Sheikh Sayyah Al-Turi and return him to the Bedouin village of Al-Araqeeb.

Prison services had conditioned his release on his forcible transfer and deportation from Al-Araqeeb. Al-Turi refused the terms, preferring to say in jail and his release has been postponed for a further 60 days.

Al-Turi is being held in the Ramla Prison, its administration had said that the decision to release Al-Turi is contingent on his consent to change his residence from the village of Al-Araqeeb to the city of Rahat in neighbourhood No. 25 at the request of the Israeli police.

The conditions also stipulated that Al-Turi be prevented from changing his home address without the approval of the responsible Israeli police unit, and that he must attend the police station 48 hours after his release and every fortnight indefinitely.

“I know that everyone is waiting for Sheikh Sayah Al-Turi’s release tomorrow, and I know how much everyone is prepared to welcome him. Unfortunately, the prison administration insisted on setting restricting conditions that he did not and will not accept,” said Shahda Ben Bari, a lawyer in charge of defending the residents of the unrecognised village of Al-Araqeeb in the Negev (Naqab), in a statement.

“I know the extent to which the principled positions of the Sheikh are firm. I am pretty sure he won’t accept freedom if humiliated. He is ready to assume the consequences of his steadfastness at any cost,” the statement continued.

On Tuesday morning, Israeli bulldozers demolished Al-Araqeeb and displaced its residents for the 144th time.

A number of residents of Al-Araqeeb said that the police stormed the village in the morning with backup forces and guarded bulldozers and vehicles that demolishing tents and tin and wood houses, displacing the elderly and the children and leaving them homeless.

Villagers said that they will continue to live in the village and keep rebuilding it in spite of the Israeli occupation’s attempts to force them away.

Seventy-year-old Al-Turi was handed a ten-month jail term and fined $10,300 in December after he was found guilty in 18 cases filed in November 2013 including trespassing on state property, in reference to land which belongs to his village.

Al-Araqeeb is one of 51 Arab villages in the Negev the Israeli occupation authorities do not recognise and has been targeted for demolition ahead of building homes for new Jewish communities.

Israel has imposed fines on the villagers of Al-Araqeeb worth millions of dollars, Quds Press said, and charges them for the use of the Israeli bulldozers which carry out the demolition of their homes.

Israeli courts decide that the owners of the unlicensed homes must demolish them, but when they fail to do so, Israeli bulldozers carry out the demolitions and the owners are ordered to pay for the bulldozers.

In 1969, Israel called on Arab land owners to register their land with the authorities, but since then they have not accepted any of the applications made by Arab residents of the Negev (Naqab).

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