Palestinian Human Rights Campaigner and founder of Youth Against Settlements (YAS), Issa Amro, has been charged in an Israeli military court over involvement in grassroots non-violent organising against Israeli occupation forces and settlements in Al-Khalil (West Bank).
Issa Amro (40 years old), appeared in Ofer Israeli military court Wednesday, facing up to 16 military charges and was charged with 6 counts. The Human Rights activist has rejected the charges, claiming that the move was an attempt by Israeli occupation authorities to crackdown on Palestinian non-violent protest methods. The most severe amongst the 6 charges decided upon this Wednesday was a single account of “assault”, which was previously dropped from court in 2010 and was over an accusation that Amro had “shoved” an Israeli soldier.
Israeli military courts are considered by many international observers to be “kangaroo courts” due to their near 100% conviction rate. Leading Human Rights NGO, Amnesty International have said of the trial – ongoing since 2016 – that if convicted Amro would constitute being labelled a “prisoner of conscience”. Amnesty’s Saleh Higazi also said, in a recent January 5 press release, that ““Amnesty International has repeatedly called on the Israeli authorities to drop all the charges they have imposed on Issa Amro. It considers them all to be politically motivated and linked to his peaceful work in exposing Israel’s human rights violations.”.
Issa Amro also stated to Quds News that Israel is also looking to silence supporters of Palestinians against political division. Issa stated “The main issue, is that I am one of the people who is with Palestinian unity, since the first day of divisions I have been working very hard to stop division between Fateh and Hamas in Gaza and West Bank… ultimately they want to stop any voice against corruption, division and the occupation”.
Issa also said that “on the other hand, this was a request from the settlers in Hebron [Al-Khalil] from their leadership, to get rid of their main enemy in Hebron”. Specifically the Hebron illegal settler English spokesperson, former New York native David Wilder, had in 2013 called on the Israeli occupation authorities to go after Amro for “anarchist-terrorist activity”, in a letter published on Israeli media.
Issa also said to Quds News that he believes that Israel is engaging in a racist double-standard, whereby settlers get away with attacks on Palestinians and Palestinian peaceful protesters are jailed. He went on to say that “today in Hebron we are facing a large amount of attacks from the Hilltop Youth… settlers are calling for violence against Palestinians, organising violent protests, closing streets, attacking cars, attacking houses, attacking farmers and the Israeli authority doesn’t really care about their violence”. The Hilltop Youth are hardline religious extremists who believe that Palestinians should be ethnically cleansed and that violence is permissible to reach that end.
The decision on the length of Issa’s expected prison sentence will come on the 8th of February, as International Human Rights organisations fear that he will be given a lengthy prison sentence. Issa’s lawyer Gabi Lasky stated to reuters that she couldn’t predict what would happen in regards to the sentence, but did refer to a Palestinian in a similar case recieving 10-months in jail.
The number of claims made against the YAS founder have also been cited by observers tracking the cases origins back to 2016, when there were originally 18 charges levelled against Amro. All the alleged crimes that were said to have been carried out were said to have taken place between 2010-2016.
It has been noted that this case would represent a win for hardline settler leaders and set a precedence for further prosecutions of Palestinians belonging to non-violent organisation, specifically other who form the Youth Against Settlements (YAS) team, which have successfully hosted thousands of International volunteers, observers, campaigners and politicians.
In 2017 4 US Senators and 35 House representatives wrote letters to Israel stating that most of the charges levelled against Amro were not internationally permissible.