Israel Frees Innocent 16-year-old Palestinian After Six Months in Prison

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A Palestinian woman holding her national flag takes cover from tear gas fired by Israeli Occupation Forces during clashes following a demonstration in the occupied West Bank village of Nabi Saleh on February 6, 2015, to protest against the expansion of illegal Zionist settlements on Palestinian land. AFP/Abbas Momani

Published Sunday, February 8, 2015

An Israeli central court found a 16-year-old Palestinian boy innocent after holding him for six months in prison without trial.

Mohammed Mahmoud, a lawyer for the Addameer Prisoners' Support and Human Rights Association, said Mahmoud al-Hadra was released after the court found that he was not guilty of the charges pressed against him.

Al-Hadra had been on trial for allegedly possessing weapons and using them against Israeli soldiers.

The lawyer said that the decision came after a hearing session with witnesses.

Al-Hadra was detained in late July 2014.

A 2011 internal report by the Israeli military court system showed that 99.74 percent of all trials of Palestinians end in a conviction, while appeals by defendants are rejected two-thirds of the time.

Once arrested by Israeli forces, it is nearly impossible for a Palestinian to gain freedom through the courts, with only around 25 acquittals in the more than 9,000 cases that pass through the system yearly.

Around 500 Palestinians are currently being held without charge or trial as part of the system called "administrative detention," while another 5,500 are being held in Israeli prisons after being found guilty of a crime by the military courts.

Last week, a report by the Military Court Watch, a Palestinian legal monitor, revealed that out of the 500 detained at least 151 Palestinian were children.

The group said that 47 percent of those are being held inside Israeli-occupied territories in violation of the Geneva Conventions, which prevents the transfer of detainees outside of occupied territory as it limits their families' and lawyers' abilities to visit.

IOF regularly arrest minors in the occupied West Bank and annexed East Jerusalem, often for minor offenses like throwing stones.

On January 25 and 26, Israeli Occupation Forces arrested six Palestinian minors, including a 10-year-old.

Anger has risen in recent months over Israel's assault on Gaza that left more than 2,300 Palestinians, mostly civilians, dead.

More than 700 Palestinians in Israeli-occupied territories were arrested in protests against the attack over summer.

The wave of arrests came few days after a 14-year-old Palestinian girl from the village of Beitin, in the Ramallah district of the West Bank, became the youngest prisoner in Israeli jails after an Israeli court sentenced her to two months in jail and a fine of 6,000 Israeli shekels (roughly $1,500).

Detained since December 31, 2014, Malak al-Khatib was accused by the Israeli military court in Ofer of allegedly throwing rocks at Israeli security forces and being in possession of a knife.

The Ramallah-based Ahrar Center for Prisoners' Studies and Human Rights said Malak is considered the youngest prisoner currently serving a sentence in Israeli jails.

In November, the Israeli cabinet approved a new legislation that would allow the imposition of a prison sentence up to 20 years for those convicted of throwing stones or other objects at Israeli soldiers or their vehicles.

According to the UN children's fund (UNICEF), over the past decade, Israel has detained "an average of two children each day."

In its 2013 report, UNICEF added that Israel was the only country in the world where children were "systematically tried" in military courts and gave evidence of practices it said were "cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment."

A report by Defense for Children International (DCI) published in May 2014 revealed that Israel jails 20 percent of Palestinian children it detains in solitary confinement.

The Euro-Mid Observer for Human Rights said Israeli forces arrested nearly 3,000 Palestinian children from the beginning of 2010 to mid-2014, the majority of them between the ages of 12 and 15 years old.

It also documented dozens of video recorded testimonies of children arrested during the first months of 2014, pointing out that 75 percent of the detained children are subjected to physical torture and 25 percent faced military trials.

Around 6,000 Palestinians, including hundreds without charge, are currently being held in Israeli prisons, more than 2,000 of whom were arrested by Israeli forces over in the summer of 2014 amid heavy tensions in the West Bank and Gaza.

The roots of the Israel-Palestine conflict date back to 1917, when the British government, in the now-infamous Balfour Declaration, called for "the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people."

In 1948, with the end of the mandate, a new state — Israel — was declared inside historical Palestine.

Israel then occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank during the 1967 Middle East War. It later annexed the holy city in 1980, claiming it as the capital of the self-proclaimed Zionist state — a move never recognized by the international community.

(Ma’an, Al-Akhbar)

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