State Files Indictment against Five Palestinian Community Leaders and Activists in the Naqab (Negev)


Today, in the Magistrate Court of Beer el Sebe (Beer Sheva), the local prosecutor filed an indictment against five Palestinian community leaders and political activists, charging them with supporting a terrorist organization and incitement. According to the indictment, the five allegedly made statements in support of Hezbollah and Palestinian resistance organizations during Land Day demonstrations in the northern Naqab on 30 March 2002. The five men deny supporting any terrorist organization. 

The five community leaders and activists, who had been detained for the last several days, are Yosef al-Atawna, the Director of the Education Department of the local council of Hura and an activist with the Democratic Front for Peace and Equality; Mr. Abed el-Kareem al-Ataika, the Director of the Arab Youth Center in Rahat and an activist with the National Democratic Assembly party; Mr. Ibrahim Baranse, the Head of the Arab Students Committee at Ben Gurion University (BGU); Mr. Ibrahim Abu-Medeghem; and Mr. Wa'dia al-Atawna. 

After filing the indictment, the prosecutor asked the Magistrate Court to detain Mr. al-Ataika and Mr. Abu-Medeghem without bond until the end of trial. The Court denied the prosecution's request, but ordered both men to be released to house arrest. Mr. Yosef al-Atawna, Mr. Baranse, and Mr. Wa'dia al-Atawna were released by the Court, but were each asked to sign a commitment to pay NIS 5,000 should they fail to appear for subsequent court dates. 

Mr. Mohammed Mahajneh, a teacher at an elementary school in the Naqab and a student at BGU, who also participated in the Land Day demonstration, was arrested on 9 April 2002 and detained for five days. The next hearing on the case is scheduled for Sunday, 14 April 2002, in the Magistrate Court of Beer el Sebe. 

Adalah Staff Attorney Morad el-Sana represented Mr. al-Atawna, Mr. al-Ataika and Mr. Baranse at the first hearings on the charges, and represented Mr. al-Atawna and Mr. al-Ataika on appeal, requesting their release. All of the activists and community leaders are now represented by private lawyers, with the exception of Mr. Mahajneh, who continues to be represented by Adalah. Mr. el-Sana continues to monitor all of the cases. 

Adalah views these arrests as politically-motivated, an attempt to suppress dissent against the Israeli government's re-occupation campaign in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The arrests, which have provoked anger and outrage within the Palestinian community, pose a considerable threat to political participation by the Palestinian minority in Israel. In Adalah's view, the arrests are part of a series of repressive measures taken by the government against Palestinian political leaders and activists in Israel.