Peace Activist About To Be Deported From Israel
GUSH SHALOM pob 3322, Tel-Aviv www.gush-shalom.org
American peace activist arrested inTel-Aviv, about to be deported
Press Release 5/12/2003
American peace activist Radika Sainath has been detained by police yesterday afternoon in Tel-Aviv and is held in the deportation cells at Ben- Gurion Airport, in preparation for being deported from the country. This morning (Friday, Dec, 5) at 9.00 AM, her lawyer, Adv. Shamai Leibovitz, will appeal to the Duty Detentions Judge at room 359 of the Tel-Aviv Courts Building (corner of Weitzmann and King Saul, Tel-Aviv).
Gush Shalom (Israeli Peace Bloc) and other groups appealed to their activists to be present at the courtroom to exprss their solidarity, and of course there will be there members of the ISM (International Solidarity Movement) to which Radika Sainath belongs.
Sainath was picked up by police yesterday afternoon, soon after leaving the same court building - but then she had been there in a completely different capacity, as a witness in the compensation suit she had presented against the Israeli police, asking for 50,000 Shekels (about $10,000) in damages for wrongful detention.
The suit referred to events taking place a year ago, in November 2002, at the West Bank village of Jayous, on whose lands a section of Sharon's "Separation Wall" was being built at the time, causing the outright confiscation of village lands, the cutting down of numerous olive trees and destruction of various agricultural installations, and also involving the threat - since then realized - of cutting the villagers off from much of their land which was not officially confiscated.
Radika Sainath had been among a large group of international and Israeli activists which joined the Jayous villagers in a non-violent protest march. The army commander on the spot ordered the demonstrators to disperse - but before they even had time to think whether or not to obey, the soldiers opened up with tear gas and "rubber" bullets (i.e., rubber-coated metal bullets). Afterwards, police roughly pushed Sainath and several fellow demonstrators down on the ground, handcuffed them and took them off to the Ariel Police Station, where she spent 30 hours until the Supreme Court in Jerusalem ordered her release.
Judge David Geldstein of the Tel-Aviv court listened patiently when she related at length all of the above. When she mentioned the army onslaught, the judge asked: "But why did you not run away?" to which Sainath answered: "We could not. We had come there in order to defend the Palestinian villagers, to insert ourselves between them and the army - because we knew that the soldiers might be far more rough to them them to citizens of Israel or of Western countries".
Later, the state representative tried to depict Sainath as "a provocateur who is in the habit of lying down in front of bulldozers" and described the ISM as "an anti-Israeli organization". But the judge did not seem impressed, stating: "What she may have done or not done at other times and places is not relevant here, nor is the ideology of organizations to which she may belong. So far, as regards the facts of the case here considered, I heard evidence indicating that she was engaged in a lawful, non-violent protest which was wrongly broken up. I have yet to hear evidence to the contrary". The judge added, however, an aside to Sainath herself: "You see how enlightened is the state of Israel. Which other state would have allowed you to sue it in this way?". Then he fixed the next session for April 2004, when the state is supposed to bring testimonies from the soldiers and police who were at Jayous on that day.
All seemed over for the day. Sainath and her friends went out of the court building and boarded a bus. Two men - who later turned out to be plain- clothes police - boarded the bus after them. When they got off, the two again followed, approached Sainath, told her she was under arrest for being illegally in Israeli territory, used some force to beat off the Israeli and international activists present, and then pushed her into an unmarked car and whisked her off directly to the cells at Ben Gurion Airport. It seems these two were adept at such operations, being - as it turned out - members of the notorious Immigration Police which is terrorizing migrant workes, kidnapping them off the streets as well as in midnight raids to apartements in the slums of south Tel-Aviv.
The authorities intended to put Radika Sainath on a plane then and there, but quick action by her Israeli lawyer Shamai Leibovitz gained a temporary injunction, pending this morning's session. "This is pure, small-minded vindictivness on the part of the police" says Leibovitz, a veteran of numerous hard-fought human rights cases. "It is true that her visa expired some days ago. She openly declared this to the court, saying that she extended her stay in order to testify at her compensations suit and showing the court the return ticket she has for December 12 and which she fully intends to use. This arrest and attmepted deportation is pure vindictivness, they were so angry that she dared sue them that they wanted to get back at her at all costs."
For updates on the case, call Adv. Leibovitz +972-64-414505, Ronen Edelman +972-53-561580, Adam Keller +972-3-5565804 or +-972-56-709603.
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