The Trial: Step by Step
On October 11, 2015, Palestinian poet Dareen Tatour was arrested by Israeli police and border guards in a pre-dawn raid on her house in Reineh, near Nazareth. She was held in the Jelemeh detention center and interrogated by officers of the Nazareth station. All her interrogations were about her publications in social media and her political activity.
You can read a detailed analysis of the verdict here (and in Hebrew here).
November 2, 2015 – The Indictment
On November 2, 2015, she was indicted in the Magistrates’ Court in Nazareth for “incitement to violence” and “support of a terrorist organization”.
The indictment is all based on three publications by Tatour:
1) The poem “Resist My People, Resist Them” – which Tatour published in her Youtube channel and Facebook page. A distorted Hebrew translation of the poem, made by a policeman with no qualification in translation or literature, is fully cited in the indictment document.
2) A Facebook post mentioning that Islamic Jihad called for an intifada in the West Bank and later contains a call for intifada within the green line to support Muslim’s rights to pray in the Al-Aqsa mosque is the base for the accusation of “supporting a terrorist organization”. Clearly the reference to Islamic Jihad is just citing a news item and Tatour explained her call for intifada as a call for legitimate mass struggle.
3) The last publication mentioned in the indictment is composed of two pictures: A picture of Israa Abed (a women from Nazareth that was wrongly suspected as a terrorist attacker) lying on the floor of the Afula central bus station after she was shot by Israeli police and guards – posted as Tatour’s wallpaper on Facebook, and a small black picture with white Arabic writing “I am the next martyr”, that was her profile picture. The prosecution claims that by posting these two pictures together Tatour was inciting for violence. Tatour explained that the profile picture “I’m the next martyr” was first posted by her and by many activists after the burning alive of Palestinian teen Muhammad Abu-Khdeir in Jerusalem in July 2014. It was a protest at the killing of innocent Palestinians that was reused after the murder of Kheir Hamdan by Israeli police in Kafr Kana in November 2014. And she published the picture of Israa Abed after watching a video of her shooting and being sure that she was shot even though she didn’t attack anyone – a claim currently accepted by the Israeli authorities.
First hearing, April 13, 2016 – The police translator
In the first hearing of the trial, on April 13, 2016, the prosecutor chose to start presenting her case with the Hebrew translation of the “Resist” poem. For this purpose she brought the police translator, Warrant Officer Nissim Bishara. The veteran policeman testified in court that his qualification for translating the poem was his study of literature in high school and his love for the Arab language.
Second hearing, May 5, 2016 – Demonstration and closed doors
Before the second hearing on May 5, 2016, there was a solidarity vigil with Tatour in front of the Nazareth court. As a result there was more media attention and Haaretz wrote about the trial for the first time (in English and Hebrew).
Because of the vigil, many people, including some Arab Knesset members, came to attend the hearing. The judge didn’t like it and held the hearing beyond closed doors.
Third hearing, July 17, 2016 – Proving the Facebook
On the 3rd hearing on July 17, 2016, the prosecutor brought as witnesses Tatour’s best friend Samira and her young brother Ahmad to prove that her Facebook page belongs to her – a fact that she herself testified to repeatedly in her interrogations in the police.
The prosecutor also brought as a witness Rami Amer from Kafr Qasim, one of the organizers of the yearly commemoration of the Kafr Qasim massacre. They brought him to witness how and why he invited Tatour to read from her poems in the commemoration ceremony. Initially Tatour was interrogated about her participation in this commemoration as part of the accusations against her. Later the prosecutor tried to use it to prove that she is a famous poet, and for this reason her incitement constitutes severe danger to state security. In the court Amer explained that “the fact that I know her as a poet doesn’t mean that she is a known poet”.
Forth hearing, September 6, 2016 – Interrogating the interrogator
For this hearing Tatour’s lawyer Abed Fahoum made the not-so-common effort to go over the video that documented her interrogation by Officer Samer Khalil. He confronted the prosecutor witness with big gaps between what was recorded on the video and what was written in the interrogation’s protocol.
Finally the video proved, and the officer had to admit, that Tatour was forced to sign the protocol (written by Khalil in Hebrew, even though the interrogation was held in Arabic), without being allowed to read it, as she explicitly requested to do.
With this testimony the prosecution rested her case.
Tatour had to start her testimony on the same day, but the court failed to find a translator.
Fifth to seventh hearings, November 17 & 24, 2016 and January 26, 2017 – Tatour’s testimony
On November 17 the trial resume and Tatour had new lawyers, Gaby Lasky from Tel Aviv, accompanied by Nery Ramati from her office.
In her testimony Tatour admitted to posting all the publications that were attributed to her in their original Arabic form, but explained that the police translation distorted her words and that the police and prosecution distorted their meaning. She explained how all her publications were legitimate expression of protest against the crimes of the Israeli occupation and the settlers, and that all her calls for struggle are not meant to incite violence.
In three long sessions of counter interrogation the prosecutor Alina Hardak grilled Tatour again and again about many details from her publications, her interrogations in the police, other posts on her Facebook page and even comments by other people on her page. She tried to mislead Tatour, enter words to her mouth and find contradictions in her explanations – but couldn’t divert Tatour from her simple and sincere explanation of her publications.
Eighth hearing, March 19, 2017 – Experts’ opinion for the defence
On March 19, 2017, the defence presented two expert witnesses, Professor Nissim Calderon and Dr. Yoni Mendel.
Professor Calderon, an expert in Hebrew literature, explained how the most famous Hebrew poets expressed furious protest under Tsarist Russia and the British Mandate in Palestine, and were never prosecuted by these undemocratic regimes like Tatour is now targeted by Israel.
Dr. Mendel presented his own translation to Hebrew of the “Resist” poem and explained how the police translation distorted its meaning.
They were both grilled in counter interrogation by the prosecutor, trying to prove that they were not objective, that Tatour was not a poet and that the Palestinians were not living under occupation.
This counter interrogation produced many surrealistic dialogues that were cited in many articles and some of it has even constituted the text of a short play that was shown in the Yaffa Theater in a solidarity event with Tatour on August 30, 2017.
Ninth hearing, March 28, 2017 – The defence claims discrimination in the enforcement of the law
On March 28 the defence brought as a witness a police officer, who presented to the court a statistical report about interrogations and indictments concerning incitement. The defence claimed that these statistics prove that the enforcement of the incitement law is one-sided against Arabs, ignoring severe Anti-Arab incitement by Jewish Israelis.
The defence rested its case, but then the prosecution surprised everybody with a request to present more evidence.
Tenth hearing, April 27, 2017 – The prosecution tries to use Tatour’s first lawyer against her
The trial of poet Dareen Tatour was resumed in Nazareth Magistrate’s Court on Thursday, April 27, at 12:00, before Judge Adi Bambiliya.
In this hearing the last prosecution witness testified, after all defence witnesses were heard in March. The witness was a lawyer who advised Tatour on the first day of her detention, in October 2015. As Tatour mentioned his advice in her testimony, the prosecutor took the rare step to force the lawyer to testify for the prosecution in order to disproof Tatour’s words. In the court the lawyer, Hussam Mow’ed, didn’t remember any details from his meeting with Tatour, only how shocked he was at her situation after being dragged from bed to the police station at the middle of the night. Anyway, with this nonsense the prosecutor prolonged the trial and added another full month to Tatour’s house detention. This had to be the last hearing before the verdict. The judge gave each of the sides 45 days to prepare written summaries. She didn’t set a date for herself for giving the verdict, saying that she will set a date for the verdict only after she will have the summaries, “as they are likely to be delayed anyway”.
June 26, 2017 – The Prosecutor’s Summaries
After some delays, on June 26 the prosecutor has already presented her written 43 pages summary, which repeats and stresses furiously all the original accusations. She even claims that the big differences between the translation of the poem that was done by an unqualified policeman and the professional translation presented by the defence prove that the defence’s translation is not reliable!
October 17, 2017 – Date set for verdict postponed
The defence lawyer, Gaby Lasky, requested to present new evidence that disprove some of the claims of the prosecution and establish the case for discriminative enforcement. Only when these issues will be resolved we will have a new date for the verdict.
The immediate result for Dareen Tatour of these delays is that her house detention – to which she was subjected “until the end of legal proceedings” – is prolonged even more. This extended period of confinement and suffering will not be reduced from the “punishment” (up to 8 years imprisonment) that might be imposed on her by the court at the end of the trial.
Lawyer friends tell me that this is nothing special against Dareen. Such delays are daily practice of the courts and many of the accused pay the price… Not much of condolences.
Eleventh hearing, November 15, 2017 – More evidence from the defence
Defence attorney Haya Abu Warda (from Lasky’s office) presented two new pieces of evidence:
The first was an image from Dareen Tatour’s Facebook page proving that the status “I am the next martyr” was first published on July 2014, just after the murder of Muhammad Abu Khdeir, exactly as Dareen testified. In these circumstances it is clear that Dareen meant to say that any of us may be an innocent victim. The prosecution claimed over the trial that the status was first published in October 2015, in support of “the third intifada”.
The prosecution refused to the acceptance of the image without counter-interrogating either Dareen herself or her lawyer as witnesses. Abu Warda refused to allow any new interrogation of Dareen or putting herself as witness in the case and claimed that the image is like any document that doesn’t require a special witness to present. The judge sided with the prosecution and refused to accept the evidence.
The second piece of evidence was a video from the Facebook page of Miri Regev, Israel’s culture minister. On September 3rd, 2017, Regev published the video with Dareen’s poem “Resist, My People, Resist them”, the same video that Dareen is accused of incitement for publishing. Regev only added a new distorted Hebrew translation of the poem and the question “where was this video displayed?”
By presenting this video, which was already viewed more than 75 thousand times on Regev’s page, the defence supports the claim of discriminatory law enforcement. According to the indictment and the prosecutions position in the court, the fact that Dareen published this video constituted a real danger of causing violence. The indictment even specifies that the video was viewed by 153 people on Dareen’s youtube site before her detention. But the prosecution didn’t act to prevent Regev from publishing the same video to a much bigger audience.
The prosecution agreed to the presentation of this video to the court, on condition that it will be allowed to present 3 more videos from Regev’s Facebook page. Apparently they believe that the anti-Arab incitement on Regev’s page balances the “danger” of publishing Dareen’s video…
December 28, 2017 – Oral Summaries Postponed
When the testimonies stage came to an end, the prosecutor requested to move to oral summaries, while the defence insisted on its right to submit written summaries. When the judge accepted the defence’s request, the prosecutor requested the opportunity to respond to the defence summaries. She explained that during verbal summaries she could interrupt the defence’s statement, which would not be possible during written summaries. The judge ignored this unusual request.
On April 27 the Judge ordered the two sides to present written summaries, granting 45 days to each of them. The prosecution has already presented summaries (after some delays) but the defence requested to present new evidence – a request that was heard on November 15 (see below). Because of the additional evidence, the judge has scheduled a round of oral summaries to be heard on December 28, after the written summaries are submitted.
On December 28 the defence didn’t present the written summaries yet, but attorney Haya Abu Warda suggested that, as the extra oral summaries are related to the additional evidence, they will be heard anyway. The prosecutor returned to her initial claim that the main purpose of the extra summaries is to allow her to relate to the defence summaries. The judge agreed and postponed the oral summaries to January 28, 2018. The defence protested at the idea that the prosecution should be given the right to answer the defence summaries.
New Date, Sunday, February 18, 2018, at 8:30am, for Oral Summaries – February 15, after January 28, also abolished
Breaking: Hopefully the last delay. Oral summaries in the trial of poet Dareen Tatour now set for Sunday, February 18, at 8:30 am, in the Nazareth court.
Prosecutor asked for, and received, more time to study the defence written summaries before oral summaries. The hearing was set for February 15 (and later postponed to the 18th), after the designated hearing for January 28 was abolished. Dareen’s house arrest was automatically extended due to these delays…
Twelfth hearing, February 18, 2018 – Supplementary summaries for the prosecution
On February 18, the prosecutor was allowed to present oral supplementary summaries, in response to the written summary of the defence and some new evidence. Detailed report about this 12th hearing was published in +972 and in Free Haifa Extra. A Hebrew report may be found in Local Call and Haifa Ha-Hofshit. Basically, the prosecution repeated the same slander that was already presented over so many hearings, misinterpreting Tatour’s poetry to fit its idea fix that any type of Palestinian resistance to the occupation is terrorism.
There was some heated confrontation about the authority of the prosecution to present the indictment, infringing the basic right for freedom of expression. There was also a rare dialog between the judge and the audience, with the court for the first time semi-officially “recognizing” the presence of the dedicated group of the poet’s supporters.
As the prosecution brought new legal materials, including different court rulings and protocols from the Knesset that are supposed to clarify the intention behind the relevant articles of the law, defence attorney Gaby Lasky requested more time to study those materials and respond in writing.
Only after her response will be presented to the court (and hoping that the judge will not let extra time for the prosecution for another response), the judge is expected to set a date for the verdict.
Date set for verdict postponed to May 3, 2018, at 11:00
Apparently, the judge wanted some more time to write her conclusions – so today (April 18) she informed Dareen’s lawyer, Gaby Lasky, that the verdict will be postponed – and will be finally announced on May 3, at 11:00.
May 3, 2018: Dareen Tatour convicted on all counts. Arguments about the sentencing will be heard on May 31, at 11:00
If anyone had any hope that judge Bambiliya will give any weight to the strong case of the defence or to the protests of thousands around the world in defence of free speech – it all came to a brutal end today at the Nazareth court. The courtroom was full with supporters, maybe 50 of them, and this time also many journalists, photographers and TV crews. The judge came in only after the media was allowed to take pictures in the courtroom. She sat on her high bench, said that the verdict is long, and that she would read only some of it. She read in a low voice and people complained that they can’t hear. She usually uses a mike – but not today. The guards wanted to throw out of the court the people that complained – but the judge requested them not to do it.
It all took hardly a few minutes, the only sentence that could be heard clearly was when the judge cited some old court ruling about the importance of the freedom of expression. Soon she concluded: “I decided to convict…” Then she went on in a very low voice to name the articles of conviction by their technical numbers, without any explanation, and soon disappeared through the back-door to her chamber.
Everybody jumped at lawyer Gaby Lasky: What? What did the judge say? Of what did she convict Dareen?
I’m not sure whether Lasky herself could hear what the judge murmured but soon she received the 52-page verdict and she could tell us all: Dareen Tatour was convicted on the two charges in the indictment, both “incitement to violence” and “support of a terrorist organization”.
We stayed almost another hour in the court’s waiting hall. Everybody was shocked and angry and trying to console Dareen, who was laughing and saying “I never expected justice from an Israeli court.”
You can read a detailed analysis of the verdict here – and in Hebrew here.
May 31, 2018: The prosecution asks for prison sentence between 15 and 26 months
On May 31 there was a special hearing where both sides had to declare what, in their view, is the due sentence, according to the verdict which convicted poet Dareen Tatour both for “incitement to violence” and “support for a terrorist organization”.
The prosecutor, unexpectedly, presented her arguments in writing to the court. At the time we couldn’t even know what she was asking for. Defence lawyer Gaby Lasky was given a short time to read the prosecution’s claims and respond. When she started talking, we learned from what she said that prosecutor claimed that Dareen should be sent to prison for a period between 15 and 26 months. Lasky, of course, said that Dareen should not be sent to prison at all.
The judge set the date for announcing the sentencing to June 24m at 11:00.
Sentencing will be announced on July 31, 11:00
More delays prolong the ordeal of poet Dareen Tatour – Sentencing now set to July 31, 2018…. After the sides finished stating their arguments concerning the due punishment, on May 31, the judge asked Dareen Tatour whether she wanted to postpone the sentencing until the submission of a report by a probation officer. Dareen sternly objected. She already spent more than 2 years and 8 months between prison and house arrest, and she wants to see the end of her ordeal, even if it will come after another term in prison. So, the judge set the date for announcing the sentence to June 24. As the date came close, the judge decided against Dareen’s wishes to ask for the report anyway, and postponed the final decision to July 31.
July 31, 2018: poet Dareen Tatour sentenced to 5 months in prison
After an absurd trial that consumed the best part of three years, poet Dareen Tatour will be sent back to prison!
The trial finished and Dareen will go to prison on August 8. On July 31, 2018, the hall was more than full with local and international media and dozens of supporters of the poet. The judge read only the last lines of her long sentencing decision: Dareen was sentenced to 5 months in prison for her poem and two statuses on Facebook that Israel regarded as “incitement to violence”. As she already spent 3 months in prison just after her arrest on October 11, 2015, Dareen actually will have to spend a new term of 2 months in prison. She was ordered to come to the Gelemeh detention center on the morning of August 8, to start serving her prison sentence.
In addition to the 5 month of actual imprisonment the judge added 6 months of suspended imprisonment sentence for a period of 3 years.
For the period until August 8, the judge abolished Dareen’s house arrest and the restriction that obliged her to be accompanied by custodians 24 hours a day. But all the other restrictions, including a ban on all publications and any access to the internet, remains in force.
August 8, 2018: poet Dareen Tatour in prison again
Dareen Tatour is in prison again, after serving 3 months in prison in 2015 and more that two and a half years under house arrest since then.
Dareen Tatour entered the Jelemeh detention center on Wednesday morning, August 8, 2018, after a prolonged legal battle, she started serving the remaining 2 months of the 5 months prison sentence that was imposed against her by the Israeli court. She was accompanied by some two dozens of her supporters, who gathered at the prison gates and held last “Farewell ceremony”. The event was help with the spirit of defiance, almost victory. All promised that the persecution of the poet and the imprisonment of thousands of other activists will never succeed to silence her voice or the voices of the resistance to the Israeli Apartheid regime.
The Jelemeh detention center is used to hold prisoners temporarily (in harsh conditions) until they are “sorted out” and assigned to an “appropriate” prison.
20 September 2018 – Dareen freed after spending her 5 months prison term
On the morning of September 20, Dareen Tatour was released from the Damoun prison, after serving the 5 months to which she was sentenced. The imprisonment term includes 3 months that she was in three different prisons just after her arrest on October 2015 and until she was transferred to house arrest in January 2016.
November 29, 2018, at 11:00 – date set for the appeal – POSTPONED!
Dareen’s appeal against her conviction in the Israeli District Court in Nazareth postponed again. The next chapter in the long struggle against the persecution of poet Dareen Tatour was scheduled for Nov 25 but postponed. You are all invited to keep tuned and to express your solidarity!
Appeal heard on December 25, 2018, in the district court in Nazareth
The appeal hearing in the Nazareth district court lasted several hours… The is no justice for Dareen but it seems that the judges would like to abolish the article of the conviction that is related to her poem “resist” – recognizing that the poem can be read in different ways. So, they want to clean Israel’s record as a state that arrest poets for the poetry but still justify Dareen’s imprisonment on the basis of 2 “non-poetic” statuses on Facebook… There is no date yet for the final decision.
Appeal partially accepted on May 16, 2019, in the district court in Nazareth
After three and half years of persecutions, spending 5 months in jail and two and a half years under house arrest – the district court in Nazareth partially accepted today poet Dareen Tatour’s appeal and acquitted her from all the charges related to the publication of her poem “Resist My People”.
In an absurd twist they upheld the charges related to 2 “non-poetic” Facebook posts – and justified her imprisonment…
It is a victory to the freedom of the arts – as the wide solidarity – locally and internationally – taught the Israeli oppressive apparatus that there is a high price to pay for imprisoning a poet for his poems….
Yet it is in no way vindication of the fake “Israeli Democracy” – as it still shows how any Palestinian can be persecuted and imprisoned for the slightest expression of verbal opposition to the crimes of the occupation.
Finally, the prosecution wanted to appeal, but Israel’s “High Court” refused to hear it
Four years after she was arrested by Israeli police over a poem, Dareen Tatour’s legal battles are finally over.
The Israeli “High Court” refused to hear an appeal filed by the prosecution against the Nazareth district court decision that the poem doesn’t contain incitement.