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Israel’s Trial Of Civil Activist Serious Attack On Freedom Of Civil Activity In The Palestinian Territories

Geneva – The Israeli authorities should provide fair trial guarantees for the director of the Health Work Committee (HWC), Shatha Odeh, and refrain from convicting her for the vague and unfair accusations made by the Israeli Military Prosecution, Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor said today in a statement.

In the early hours of the morning of 7 July, an Israeli army force arrested Palestinian woman, Shatha Odeh, 60, from her home in the Ein Misbah area in the city of Ramallah, after interrogating her briefly in the house and confiscating a vehicle belonging to the HWC.

Odeh’s family told Euro-Med Monitor that the Israeli force did not present a legal arrest warrant but only informed the detainee's husband that she is summoned for investigation in the morning, provided that she returns to her home at the same time.

The Israeli army transferred Odeh to Ofer detention center after her arrest and interrogated her for about nine hours. Her lawyer was not allowed to attend the interrogation, and she was only allowed to consult the lawyer by phone before the investigation began.

On 8 July, Ofer Court decided to extend Odeh's detention until 14 July, after which she was transferred to Hasharon Prison. On 14 July, Odeh appeared handcuffed inside a wooden cage at Ofer Court, and she was only able to speak with the lawyer for minutes before the beginning of the court, which adjourned the case to 19 July.

The Israeli court also postponed the third court session to 26 July, under the pretext that the indictment was not completed by the Israeli Military Prosecution.

At the fourth court session on 26 July, the military prosecutor filed an indictment against Odeh and asked the court to extend her detention until the verdict is issued. The indictment included five main charges: working in an illegal institution (that is HWC), attending an event to mourn a Palestinian political leader, illegally bringing funds to the West Bank, receiving money fraudulently, and forging documents for the institution that she worked for.

Odeh’s daughter, Sherine, told Euro-Med Monitor that her mother has lost nine kilograms due to the poor detention conditions in Hasharon prison.

Sherine said that the prison is plagued which insects, the cells are dirty, the prison administration imposes permanent supervision on the female detainees inside their cells, and there is no commissary (canteen) in the prison.

On 27 July, the Israeli authorities transferred Odeh to Damoun Prison and brought her to a fifth trial on 17 August, in which she rejected all the charges brought by the prosecution. On 4 October, Odeh underwent a sixth trial, which was postponed at the request of the prosecution, and the court set a date for 15 November for a seventh court session.

The detention and trial of Odeh come in the framework of Israel’s arbitrary policy of targeting civil and human rights organizations in the Palestinian territories and the silencing of all voices that may contribute to exposing Israeli violations against Palestinian civilians.

Most of the charges brought by the Israeli Military Prosecution against Odeh are vague and inaccurate. Her institution works in the field of community health and development, and it carries out its activities openly in all areas in which it operates in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The accusation related to forgery of the institution’s documents and papers is not within the jurisdiction of the Israeli authorities because the institution is registered and operates in the territories of the Palestinian Authority (PA). Therefore, the PA is the only party responsible for the charges related to the functioning of the institution.

Nour Alwan, Euro-Med Monitor’s Chief Media Officer, said, "The detention and trial of Odeh are not isolated from the renewed Israeli campaign against civil activism in the Palestinian territories, the latest manifestation of which was banning the work of six human rights organizations a few days ago.”

“A number of Palestinian institutions and associations affected by Israeli bans and restrictions implement their activities in partnership with the European Union or some UN organizations. But they have not spoken against the illegal Israeli decisions,” she said. “This may encourage Israel to escalate its campaign against civil activity in the Palestinian territories.”

The Israeli authorities should stop procrastinating in Odeh’s trial procedures, retract the unfair indictment against her, and stop pursuing civil activity in the Palestinian territories.

The United Nations and the European Union should push Israel to stop its policy of banning and criminalizing civil institutions in the Palestinian territories, respect international humanitarian law and relevant international conventions, which protect the existence of civil institutions and activities in conflict areas.

© Scoop Media

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