Update: Court Sentences Bedouin Human Rights Defenders to Imprisonment
The Human Rights Defenders Fund (HRDF) and the Naqab/Negevoexistence Forum for Civil Equality (NCF) wish to update you on the highly disturbing situation surrounding the Israeli Government`s continuing harassment and persecution of the Bedouin people, residents of al-‘Arāqīb.
On 21 September, three members of the Abu Madhi’m al-Turi family of the unrecognized Bedouin village al-‘Arāqīb, were sentenced to imprisonment by the Magistrate’s Court after being convicted of three charges earlier in 2019: trespass with intent to commit an offense, violation of lawful direction and unlawful entry to public land. `Aziz Abu Madhi’m and his brother Seif, were sentenced to six and three months in prison, respectively. Their father, Sheikh Sayah, was sentenced to three months of community service due to his age and health condition. Another family member, Salem, was sentenced to four months in prison. The four were also fined extremely high sums, ranging between ILS 12,000–30,000 each, and ILS 77,000 in total.
Sheikh Sayah and his family who are represented by HRDF-funded lawyer, Michal Pomeranz, are planning to appeal the decision. Following the ruling, Attorney Pomeranz stated: “The Court imposed upon the Abu Madhi’mfamily an unfounded sentence, which does not comply with the previous and likewise severe, verdict in the case of Sheikh Sayah. The Court unjustifiably sends people who are not in any way criminals to prison, and we will appeal this outrageous decision”. Advocate Pomeranz filed a motion for a stay of execution of the sentence and it was approved by the Magistrate`s Court, under the condition that each of the defendants will provide ILS 5,000 guarantee within one week.
Sheikh Sayah was previously convicted in 2017 of 19 counts of trespassing, 19 counts of unlawful entry into public land and one count of breach of law, all of which relate solely to his persistent struggle to safeguard his family’s historical rights over their land. He was sentenced to ten months in prison, five months’ probation, and ILS 36,000 fine.
These are only some of many criminal, civil and administrative legal procedures executed by the State against the Abu Madhi’m family and other indigenous Bedouin activists, in an attempt to prevent them from resisting violations of their rights, and as deterrence to all human rights defenders protecting Bedouin indigenous rights.
The criminalization of the Abu Madhi’m family for living on their land, and the findings that this is an offence that carries prison sentences, effectively criminalizes thousands of Bedouin citizens with similar status on the land. There is a reason to believe that the Abu Madhi’m family has been singled out for enforcement action to the full extent of the law because they have opted for a non-violent struggle for Bedouins rights in the Naqab.
HRDF and NCF will continue to support Bedouin defenders active in the struggle for land rights and recognition, who face ongoing legal prosecution, in particular from the village of al-ʿArāqīb, which was demolished 178 times and faces daily oppression by the Israeli authorities.
If you have any further questions regarding these and other matters concerning the valiant struggle of the residents of al-‘Arāqīb and the Bedouin community to continue their traditional way of life on their ancestral land, please contact NCF and HRDF’s International Advocacy Coordinators.
For inquiries, contact:
Noa Amrami - Human Rights Defenders Fund - email@example.com
Elianne Kremer - NCF - firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo: Sheikh Sayah Abu Madi’am, 69, of the al-Turi tribe in al-‘Arāqīb, Naqab, 25 December 2017. Source: Ilan Assayag.