An Israeli military judge overseeing the trial of Palestinian teenager Ahed Tamimi for slapping and punching two Israeli soldiers has ordered all proceedings to take place behind closed doors “for the protection of the minor.”
Her attorney, Gaby Lasky, has objected, and her father, Bassem, pleaded to the dozens of reporters: “We need the media, and we need the audience for watching and to see what’s happening to Ahed because we don’t trust this court and we don’t trust this system.”
Tamimi, who turned 17 in prison last month, and who has been incarcerated for nearly two months, appeared to be in good spirits as she entered and whispered across the courtroom to her family.
“Stay strong, stay strong,” shouted her father, Bassem, from the back row.
Only family members were allowed to remain in the courtroom, and diplomats from Germany, Britain, Ireland and other European countries present to observe also were asked to leave by the judge, Lieutenant Colonel Menahem Liberman.
In a seven-page indictment, Tamimi faces 12 charges, including aggravated assault, threatening Israeli soldiers and incitement to violence on Facebook, going back to April 2016. Her mother, Nariman Tamimi, also is charged for incitement on social media and for assault.
“We believe that this is an indictment solely created in order to deter Ahed and other Palestinian youths” from resisting occupation, Lasky said afterward.
Ahed Tamimi, then 16, was recorded by her mother shoving and shouting at two Israeli soldiers in the driveway of her family home in Nabi Salih in the West Bank on December 15, 2017.
At the time, protests had erupted in several parts of the West Bank over President Donald Trump’s recognition 10 days earlier of contested Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
She was arrested during a night raid four days later, after a video of her threatening and beating two Israel Defense Forces soldiers went viral.
The video caused a great debate in both Israeli and Palestinian societies. For Palestinians, the young teen is a symbol of resistance to Israeli occupation, but many Israelis regard her as a violent troublemaker seeking publicity.
She has become a national icon, her face has appeared on street murals and posters, while an online petition organized by her father calling for her release has gathered 1.7 million signatures. Among the people who have signed the petition are American celebrities and actors.
Human rights groups said her case highlighted what they've described as Israel’s harsh treatment of Palestinian minors.
The next session in the case was set for March 11. She is being held in jail until the end of the proceedings against her.
“The court decided what is best for the court, and not what is good for Ahed,” Lasky later told reporters, accusing the judge of trying to keep the world from watching.
She said she is still waiting to receive case material from the prosecutor, and that her client did not enter a plea.
U.N. human rights experts said Tamimi’s continued detention violates international legal standards.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Israel has ratified, states that minors can only be deprived of liberty as a last resort and for the shortest appropriate time, said Michael Lynk, a U.N. special rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories, in a statement.
He said the Tamimi case is not isolated, and that Israel detains and prosecutes 500 to 700 Palestinian children in military courts annually.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.