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From the field

Video: Detention of Palestinians who complained of trespassing settlers

Military judge orders detainees released after finding no grounds for arrest, which involved violence towards one detainee

Lt. Col. Sharon Rivlin, a military court justice at Ofer Camp, ordered the unconditional release from detention of three Palestinian residents of Hebron. The detainees–Shaker Zaro (Tamimi), his son Sh'hab a-Din Zaro (Tamimi), and Shukri Zaro (Tamimi)– had been arrested by soldiers summoned to deal with trespassing settlers. On Wednesday, 24 April 2013, the three Palestinians in question saw on their privately-owned land settlers from Giv’at Gal. Recently settlers from Giv’at Gal, an illegal settlement outpost that overlooks the Zaros’ land have been coming there frequently.

Video of the arrest (truncated because of violence by the military officer):

The Palestinian landowners called the police to report the trespassing. Sh'hab a-Din, a volunteer in human rights organization B’Tselem’s Camera Project, filmed the incident as it unfolded. When soldiers arrived on the scene, the Palestinians told them that this was their own land and that they wanted the trespassers removed. The soldiers ignored these explanations. Rather than sending the settlers away, the soldiers arrested the Palestinians and took them to the Kiryat Arba Police Station. There, the police did not release the detainees. Instead, the police demanded cash bail and a pledge that the Zaros not go out to their land for 15 days. The detainees insisted that they were innocent of any wrongdoing and refused to pay any money or sign any pledge. Consequently, the police kept them in custody overnight.

On Thursday, 25 April, a hearing was held in the Ofer military court, with the prosecution seeking to extend the Palestinians’ remand. In response, defense counsel, Adv. Nery Ramati of the Gaby Lasky law firm, submitted video footage of the arrest and Shaker Tamimi’s land deeds.

Adv. Ramati said at the hearing: “A man is standing in his own yard. A neighbor enters and asks the man to leave his own yard. The man, since it is his own yard, refuses, and even chooses to call the police. This is not the first time that he has been asked to leave. Over the last two weeks he has filed many complaints to the police about people making it difficult for him to be on his own land. Many troops arrive. The trespasser tells the security forces that [the owner] is not allowed to be there, and he says that it’s his home.”

In her decision, Justice Sharon Rivlin stated that “In the absence of any evidence that the suspects were not allowed to be at the site of their arrest, or that they had indeed perpetrated a prohibited act there, there are no grounds for arresting the suspects.” Furthermore, she found that the video of the arrest seems to shows unwarranted violence against Shaker Tamimi. The judge conveyed the transcript of the hearing to the Chief Military Prosecutor for an assessment of the soldier’s actions.

B’Tselem Director Jessica Montell applauded the judge’s decision: “Far too often, police and soldiers, who are supposed to defend Palestinians and their property if attacked by settlers, choose to blame the victim. In this instance, acting as any law-abiding individuals would, the residents called for police protection against trespassing settlers, and found themselves being detained with violence on the part of a military officer. Fortunately for them, the incident was filmed so they weren’t indicted.”

The Zaros family has ownership deeds to the plot that has been repeatedly invaded by Giv’at Gal settlers. The Zaros have recently documented several trespassing incidents and damage to their property, including settlers bringing a goatherd onto the family’s land. In the last two weeks, the Zaros have told a B’Tselem field researcher that there have been increasing cases of harassment and that, complaints to the police notwithstanding, the police has done nothing to protect the family’s property. The three plan to file another trespassing complaint against the settlers, and B’Tselem will deliver the relevant documentation in its possession to the military and civilian law enforcement authorities.