Criminal indictments withdrawn against Sheikh Sayyah Al-Touri from Al-Araqib

Adalah: "The real goal behind the indictments is to criminalize and burden the Arab Bedouin villagers as punishment for their attempts to save their homes."

On 24 February 2015, during a hearing in the Be'er Sheva Magistrates' Court, the state prosecution announced the withdrawal of criminal indictments against Sheikh Sayyah Al-Touri, leader of the unrecognized Arab Bedouin village of Al-Araqib in the Naqab. The prosecutors charged Sheikh Sayyah with "forcibly taking control" of the village's land and "failing to obey orders to leave the land" after refusing to comply with eviction orders issued against him.


The prosecution's withdrawal was made during the pretrial preliminary hearing stages of the cases, which prove that the charges had no legal basis. Adalah Attorney Aram Mahameed and partner lawyers represented Sheikh Sayyah before the court.


The case is the last of a group of 14 criminal indictments filed against villagers and activists in Al-Araqib, who were arrested and injured during protests against home demolitions in the village in 2010 and 2011. In all of these cases, either the activists received very light sentences, or the state withdrew the charges, or the court cancelled the indictments.


The decision to withdraw the indictments was made after the Magistrates' Court tried to reach an agreement between the state and Sheikh Sayyah. The prosecution proposed that Sheikh Sayyah admit to parts of the charges in return for cancelling other charges; but Sheikh Sayyah insisted on rejecting all the charges offense-by-offense.


Attorney Mahameed commented on the decision that: "The cancellation of the charges against Sheikh Sayyah prove yet again that the real goal behind the targeting of the residents of Al-Araqib is to intimidate them and force them to yield to Israeli policies and give up their lands. The prosecution initiated charges against the villagers' families and activists without any legal basis in order to keep them busy in court hearings for long hours in cases that could drag on for years. It is a method used by the state to criminalize and burden the villagers as punishment for their political activism."


Al Araqib is one of about 35 unrecognized Bedouin villages in the Naqab that Israel aims to demolish and to confiscate its land for discriminatory purposes. On the land of Al Araqib, which was repeatedly demolished more than 80 times since 2010 and rebuilt each time, Israeli authorities plan to establish forests and nature reserves.