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International Activists Set Free After Tree Chaini

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Update: International Activists Set Free After Tree Chaining
5 May, 2005

Six International peace activists arrested in the West Bank Village of Bil'in for chaining themselves to imperiled olive trees along side Palestinian and Israeli activists, were set free today.

On 4 May, residents of the village of Bil'in near Ramallah organized a non-violent protest against the annexation Wall where they were joined by Israelis and Internationals in chaining themselves to the olive trees while others demonstrated. Bil'in farmers had received notice the previous day that eighty five olive trees would be uprooted to make way for the illegal Wall and called for International and Israeli support. After a stand off that lasted four hours, the Israeli military using excessive force cut the chains and dragged away twelve of the non-violent protesters, arresting 6 Internationals and 5 Israelis. All the Palestinians who were initially detained were all released. All 5 arrested Israelis were released after agreeing not to return to Bil'in for 15 days.

The deportation hearing scheduled for the six International Activists this morning never took place.
Instead, after holding them for over 26 hours, the police made an offer reportedly from the Israeli Ministry of the Interior that they be released under the condition that they would not enter a closed military zone. To which all agreed save one who was also released.

When asked why he participated in the protest by chaining himself to an olive tree, released activist Gabe Gao from the United States, who is of Jewish descent, said: "The International Court of Justice has ruled that Israel’s Separation Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territories is illegal and must be dismantled. The confiscation of Palestinian land and destruction of Palestinian property has nothing to do with 'security'. It is the responsibility of the international community to pressure Israel to adhere to international law. Since my government is not taking action, I feel it is my moral obligation to act in opposition to this crime."

The activists report being beaten and treated with excessive force during their arrest by Israeli Boarder Police and the Israeli Defense Force citing video and photographic evidence (available upon request). Greek activist, Maria, requested medical attention for a blow to the head and injuries to her legs and arms sustained during the arrest. Instead She was brought to an interrogation room and repeatedly insulted with racial slurs. She received medical treatment only after 12 hours and repeated requests. Initially she was informed by Israeli ambulance drivers that the fee for thorough treatment would be 350 NIS, but eventually she was treated without charge. The Greek consulate is intervening in order to obtain her medical records which the Israeli police have refused to release.

ENDS

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