World News

Israel convicts Palestinian activist of illegal protest, assault in West Bank

TEL AVIV (Reuters) - An Israeli military court on Wednesday convicted a Palestinian rights activist of offences in the occupied West Bank, in a case that Amnesty International described as politically motivated.

Slideshow ( 2 images )

Issa Amro, of the Palestinian city of Hebron, was convicted on three counts of protesting without a permit, two counts of disrupting Israeli soldiers’ activities, and one count of assault, a document from the Ofer military court showed. He was acquitted on 12 other counts against him.

Amro denied the charges. Arguments over sentencing will await a further hearing on Feb. 8.

All of the incidents occurred between 2010 and 2016, the court document showed.

Amro, 40, founded an activist group that regularly protests against Israeli settlement construction in the flashpoint city of Hebron. Under heavy Israeli military protection, around 1,000 settlers live there among 200,000 Palestinians.

“It doesn’t make sense to punish someone for nonviolent resistance,” Amro told Reuters. “The Israeli military system exists only to oppress Palestinians and restrict freedom of speech.”

Gaby Lasky, Amro’s lawyer, said it was hard to predict whether Amro would face prison time, but that a Palestinian in a similar case received a 10-month term.

Amnesty International said the charges against Amro were “politically motivated and linked to his peaceful work in exposing Israel’s human rights violations”.

The group has also condemned as “disgraceful” charges brought against Amro by the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.

Amnesty said the PA had accused him of “disturbing public order” and “insulting higher authorities” over Facebook posts in 2017 critical of Palestinian leaders.

Amro said his next Palestinian court hearing is on Jan. 20.

Most countries view settlements Israel built on West Bank land captured in a 1967 war as illegal. Israel disputes this, citing biblical and historical connections to the territory, as well as security needs.

Reporting by Rami Ayyub; Editing by Giles Elgood and Rosalba O’Brien