The Israeli Prisons Authority prevents family visits from the poet Dareen Tatour

(This article was also published in Hebrew. An edited version of it appeared today in +972.)

On the morning of August 8, we accompanied the poet Dareen Tatour to the detention center in Jalameh (Kishon), where she had to report to undergo a “screening” to determine where she would spend the remaining two months out of the five-month prison sentence imposed on her. The next day we learned that she had been sent to Damoun Prison, to be in the special ward for Palestinian “security” women prisoners.

Damon_prison from Wikipedia

Damoun prison on Mount Carmel (from Wikipedia) – old damp buildings

Despite the harsh conditions in which “security” prisoners are held, staying with them is preferable for a prisoner like Dareen. The solidarity between the prisoners and the fact that this is a population that is not part of a “delinquent” marginal culture are more important than all the difficult physical conditions and restrictions of basic rights. However, by the standards of the Prisons Authority, her classification as a “security” prisoner constitutes a green light for abuse and denial of her basic human rights, even if all she is actually accused of is publishing a poem.

The women “security” prisoners (as all Palestinian “security” prisoners) have no right to a telephone, no access to a social worker that may help to handle sensitive personal problems and there is no rehabilitation process to prepare them for life after prison. Even the meeting with the lawyer representing them is not an open meeting but through a glass partition. Any “security” prisoner, even one accused of writing a poem, is considered, a priori, according to the apartheid system of the Israeli prisons system, more dangerous than any violent rapist or criminal murderer, and has less basic rights in prison.

Damoun Prison on Mount Carmel is located in damp buildings in a place that served as a tobacco warehouse for the Palestinian Karaman family before 1948. In 2000 the Israel Prisons Authority admitted that the prison was not suitable for human habitation and closed it. However, shortly after the outbreak of the second intifada in the same year, Damoun was reopened as a prison for incarcerating “illegal aliens” – the Palestinian “bread prisoners” who risk their lives and freedom by crossing the Apartheid walls that surround the Occupied West Bank in search for work. Later on, more Palestinian prisoners were brought to Damoun, including a new special section for female prisoners.

On Monday, August 27, I visited Dareen’s family in their home in Reineh (near Nazareth) to ask what they knew about her conditions in prison.

Dareens father Tawfiq Tatour (Abu Yamen) -at home

Dareen’s father Tawfiq Tatour (Abu Yamen) at the family’s home in Reineh

When Dareen separated from the escorts and entered the iron gate of the detention center, her father, Tawfiq Tatour (Abu Yamen), entered with her, along with a bag of clothes she had prepared in advance. Now he continued the story of the abuse of Dareen and the family from the moment of her entry to the detention center with this clothes’ bag. After Dareen was taken away, the guards told him to wait until they check the bag. After a long wait, perhaps an hour or so, they returned the bag full and swollen. He doesn’t know what was entered, or if anything was allowed in from all the clothes she packed.

The difficulties in bringing clothes to prisoners are a well-known and widely used form of abuse during the interrogation period. The father recounted how, after Dareen’s arrest, taken from her home in the middle of the night without any extra clothes, she spent many days under interrogation before the family was allowed to bring in clothes. But now, as she entered prison in a planned and orderly way after being sentenced, you wouldn’t expect that there would be such a problem. All the more so since Dareen was already familiar with the prison’s rules and packed exactly those clothes that prisoners are allowed to hold. No need to say that the bag with her clothes was returned without any explanation.

Visits to the “security” prisoner, the family was informed, can only be arranged by fax. They should submit the visitors’ names and wait for approval. In any case, for “security” prisoners only first-degree relatives might apply for permission to visit. Dareen’s father told me how he sent a request for a visit and received a negative answer: “She does not deserve a visit.” Again, no explanation was given. Several additional requests were not answered at all.

Dareens Cat named Cadi waiting impatiently

Dareen’s cat “Cadi” is waiting impatiently for her release

Last Wednesday, August 22, at the time of the families visits at Damoun, the father went to the prison, even though he knew he could not visit Dareen, hoping, at least, to be allowed to deliver some clothes. The guard at the gate refused his request. When he requested to speak with the responsible officer the guard refused and he remained behind a locked gate.

Prior to the publication of this article, we sent some questions to the Israeli Prison Service for their response. They stated that “according to the Prisons Service Ordinance, it is permitted to authorize visits to convicted prisoners at the end of three months from the day they enter the prison.” Lawyers who know the subject closely from their daily work told me that this is not the usual practice and that visits usually start about two weeks after the start of the sentence. But even if we take the words of the Israeli Prison Service as they said, Dareen was already in prison for more than three months at the beginning of her detention before being transferred to house arrest. Do they start counting the three months every time from scratch?

Advertisements

Dareen Tatour’s Trial – Toward the Verdict

The trial of Dareen Tatour and the madness of being Israel

(The following article, co-authored by Kim Jensen, was published in Electronic Intifada)

In 1985, Mahmoud Darwish wrote an essay called “The Madness of Being Palestinian.”

After reflecting on the attacks against Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon, he concluded that a Palestinian can only do one thing: “to become more Palestinian, a Palestinian until homeland or liberty, a Palestinian until death.”

Dareen family and supporters in court

Dareen Tatour in court with family and friends (Oren Ziv, Activestills)

Thirty years later, when the poet and photographer Dareen Tatour was seized from her home, interrogated, imprisoned and put on trial for “incitement to violence” and “support of a terror organization,” her only crime was just that: becoming more Palestinian in her words and her poems.

On 3 May, a verdict in this hollow charade of a trial is scheduled to be handed down by Adi Bambiliya-Einstein, a judge in the Nazareth magistrates’ court.

Human rights observers and free speech advocates around the world will be watching closely to see if the state of Israel will convict an innocent Palestinian poet against all evidence and in stark violation of international law.

Jennifer Clement, the president of PEN International, who visited Tatour and her family in Reineh – near Nazareth – last October, has reiterated the free expression group’s unwavering position.

“Dareen Tatour has been targeted for her poetry and peaceful activism,” Clement said. “We call for the charges against her to be dropped and for her immediate release.”

Despite such prominent expressions of global and local solidarity that have buoyed Tatour’s spirits, her outlook on the verdict remains bleak. Speaking from the confines of her home where she remains under house arrest, she relayed a pessimistic message: “There is no hope and no justice in the Israeli courts.”

The proceedings of the last few months do not inspire confidence. State prosecutor Alina Hardak’s closing arguments on 18 February, as well as her 43-page summary submitted to the court, demonstrate a disturbing eagerness to pursue a conviction based on emotional manipulation, distortion and slander.

The fact that the judge has countenanced this steady recitation of falsehoods and half-truths for two and a half years does not bode well.

Case built on distortion

The most obvious flaw in the case is the lack of any evidence that Tatour provoked an act of violence or that her work contains “a direct call for violence.”

Instead of presenting proof, Hardak has instead resorted to vilifying Tatour and systematically demonizing three key words she uses in her work: qawemintifada, and shahid.

Though the word qawem – “resist” – implies many forms of struggle, including nonviolent struggle, Hardak has incorrectly maintained that the word constitutes a direct appeal for violent resistance. The prosecutor has also incorrectly claimed that the word intifada, which means a “shaking off” or an “uprising” can only imply violence and terrorism.

While these two misreadings are maddening enough, it is Hardak’s misinterpretation of the word shahid, or “martyr,” that has transformed the lengthy proceedings into a bizarre display of vindictive incompetence.

Within the context of Palestinian literature, culture and politics, the word shahid signifies all of those who have died in the struggle or as a consequence of the occupation, most especially the innocent victims.

Ignoring this incontrovertible fact – as if Google didn’t exist at all – the prosecution has relentlessly promulgated the racist Israeli misconception that the word shahid is a codeword for terrorist or suicide attacker.

This malicious misinterpretation has led the prosecutor to miss the point of “Resist, My People, Resist Them,” Tatour’s fiery anti-occupation poem written in reaction to the extrajudicial execution of the Palestinian student Hadil Hashlamoun and the burning of two Palestinian children, Muhammad Abu Khdeir and Ali Dawabsha.

The line at the center of the indictment – “follow the caravan of martyrs” – functions as a figurative invitation for readers to remain mindful of the victims, not as an explicit invitation to martyrdom.

The twisting of the concept of the martyr is also central to the charge related to the “I am the next martyr” meme that Dareen posted on Facebook after Israeli soldiers and guards shot the young Palestinian Israa Abed in Afula – a city in present-day Israel – during October 2015.

The widely used meme is akin to the popular “Je suis Charlie” or “I can’t breathe” memes expressing solidarity with victims of violence, yet the prosecution ludicrously contends that Tatour posted it to encourage suicide attacks.

Propaganda and delusion

Though Israeli authorities quickly exonerated Israa Abed of any attempt to carry out an attack, police witnesses in Tatour’s hearings repeatedly called Abed “the terrorist who was in Afula” in order to falsely associate Tatour with terrorism.

In her written summary and oral arguments, Hardak, the prosecutor, slanderously insists that at the time of her post Tatour knew that “she [Abed] came to Afula to attack Jews,” even though Tatour in all her interrogations explained that she didn’t believe the false accusations against Abed.

By the end of the hearings, not a single fact was left standing. When the defense team and the international solidarity campaign began to focus on Tatour’s right to freedom of expression, Hardak switched tactics mid-trial and started to deny that the poem “Resist, My People, Resist Them” was even a poem and that Tatour was a poet at all.

In her entire summary, Hardak carefully avoids calling Tatour a poet, or calling the poem cited in full in the indictment a poem, referring to it only as “a text” or “selected words.”

Still maintaining that Tatour was “influential” and that her words had a “real possibility of legitimizing and encouraging acts of violence or terror,” Hardak writes that Tatour was invited “to present” at public events, studiously avoiding the fact she was invited to recite her poetry.

As we review such records of propaganda and delusion, it is clear that the trial of Dareen Tatour is not about madness of being Palestinian, but rather the madness of being Israel. This is the madness of a state that is consistently lenient on convicted Israeli terrorists but that is willing to persecute nonviolent expressions of Palestinian protest.

This is the madness of a state that deploys snipers to target unarmed protesters, and then claims that the snipers are merely defending a “border.”

This is the madness of a state based on the foundational denial of the indigenous people who have made it a central aspect of their identity to resist their own erasure.

No matter what the verdict is on 3 May, we can be sure that the spectacle of intractable insanity will only end when the Palestinian people, who refuse to be obliterated or silenced, will achieve full, equal rights.

For her part, Dareen Tatour is busy writing a book about her ordeal called My Dangerous Poem. Hopefully – if activists around the world exert enough pressure – she will be able to finish, publish and publicize this book as a free woman.

Kim Jensen is a Baltimore-based writer, poet and activist. Her books include a novel, The Woman I Left Behind, and two collections of poems, Bread Alone and The Only Thing that Matters. She is professor of English and women’s studies at the Community College of Baltimore County.

 

Poet Dareen Tatour’s trial: Despite objections – another prosecution summary

(This article first appeared in “+972”. Different Hebrew versions appeared in “Local Call” and “Haifa Ha-Hofshit”).

Like a cartoon character who runs over a cliff but continues to run in the air, or like Achilles who thought he could pass the tortoise easily but each time he got close, the turtle moved a bit further away, so is the trial of Dareen Tatour, a Palestinian poet who has been detained since October 2015 — defying gravity, looking like it will never end.

Dareen Tatour and supporters after trial 18 Feb 2018

Dareen Tatour, Gaby Lasky and supporters after the hearing

After the last witness testified, back in April 2017, Judge Adi Bambiliya-Einstein decided that the parties should submit written summaries within three months. In September, Tatour’s defense attorney, Gaby Lasky, asked to present new evidence, and the issue was brought before the judge on November 15. On that occasion, the judge accepted a request by the prosecutor, attorney Alina Hardak, to supplement the written summaries with oral closing arguments.

After several postponements, a court hearing was scheduled for the additional summaries on Sunday, February 18. In response to Lasky’s request to set the hearing a little late, considering that she must arrive from Tel Aviv to Nazareth, the judge set it to 8:30 am. On Sunday morning, at 8:30, Tatour arrived with her father, the defense attorney and about fifteen of her supporters at the courtroom’s door, which finally opened at 8:45.

The prosecution’s extra show

The prosecution submitted 43 pages of written summaries. The defense managed to shorten its arguments and squeeze them into 83 pages. The initial justification for the extra hearing had been the new evidence.

And yet there was not much new evidence.

The prosecution convinced the court not to accept as evidence a screenshot from Tatour’s Facebook page showing that she initially published the profile picture with the caption “I am the next martyr” in July 2014, as a response to the murder of the teen Muhammad Abu Khdeir. It was rejected on technical grounds — the absence of a witness corroborating the authenticity of the image.

The second piece of new evidence related to the publication of a video accompanied by the lyrics of Tatour’s poem, “Resist My People.” The defense brought evidence that the same video was later posted by Israeli Culture Minister Miri Regev on her own Facebook page. That no legal steps have been taken against Regev, the defense argued, constitutes proof of discriminatory prosecution. The arguments on this matter lasted less than a minute, out of an hour and a quarter of the prosecution’s closing arguments.

On the other hand, the prosecutor used the event to repeat that which she had already detailed at length in the written summaries. She tried to present the poem, “Resist My People,” as part of the wave of attacks by Palestinians in October 2015.

The defense insisted that the poem is a legitimate expression of protest, which speaks about the occupation’s violence against innocent Palestinians. The defense based its arguments on specific events that were mentioned in the poem: the children who were burned; Hadeel, who was shot; the settler’s robbery; and the violence of the army’s special undercover units.

The prosecutor focused on what she thought was clear to every “average person”—the Israeli worldview that sees every Arab, and especially whoever opposes the occupation, as a dangerous terrorist. During the trial the prosecution screened gory videos of Palestinian attacks, under the pretext of checking the skill and objectivity of the defense’s translator. This time, to refresh the judge’s memory, the prosecutor began to read aloud in court a list of attacks by Palestinians that took place in October 2015. Defense Attorney Gaby Lasky objected, which the judge accepted — a rare occasion in this court.

According to the prosecution, the publication of the photo “I am the next Martyr” was part of a systematic pattern of encouraging suicide attacks. The fact that the picture was first published in response to the burning of young Abu Khdeir, of course, should have been conclusive proof that Tatour speaks of the martyr in the sense of a victim rather than an attacker. However, as mentioned, the prosecutor managed to have that evidence stricken. Now she wanted “to prove” that this image was first published in October 2015.  During the trial, the prosecution claimed (and Tatour consistently denied) that this picture first appeared next to the picture of Israa Abed, who was shot at the central bus station in Afula on October 9, 2015, after she was wrongfully suspected of intending to carry out an attack. The prosecution used this false claim as proof that it couldn’t have been published by Tatour earlier. On the basis of this circular argument, the prosecutor even dramatically declared that Tatour was “lying brazenly,” which led to another objection by Lasky.

A whole section of the defense summaries focused on the importance of preserving freedom of expression, especially political and artistic expression. On top of many legal precedents, the defense also quoted international conventions to which Israel is a signatory. One of the cited documents was a joint declaration of 57 countries issued in September 2015, before the 30th session of the UN Human Rights Council, which relates to the freedom of artistic expression. The prosecutor claimed that this declaration is not legally binding and that, in fact, Israel’s support of it has no practical value. She even said that this was the position of the State Attorney’s Office Department of International Law. Lasky requested to see this legal opinion. It may be time that Israel’s partners to this statement also begin asking questions.

Was the prosecution authorized to file the indictment?

The indictment accuses Tatour of two crimes: incitement to violence and support for a terrorist organization. These two articles, by nature, restrict freedom of expression, and therefore such indictments require the approval of the attorney general. In practice, the prosecution only submitted to the court approval from the attorney general for prosecuting Tatour for “incitement to violence.”

It is worth noting that the excessive sensitivity to freedom of expression in Israel’s legal system is applied mainly to the freedom of expression of settlers and other anti-Arab extremists. Therefore, in cases of this type, the defense often quotes cases of right-wing activists who were acquitted despite serious violent statements. The judges, for some reason, have no difficulty telling the difference; when the accused is Arab, they use entirely different criteria.

Lasky argued in her written summaries that in the absence of the required authorization, the part of the indictment that deals with support for a terrorist organization should be considered null and void. She cited precedents of indictments that were dismissed due to lack of such authorization, and showed that such decisions can be made even in the late stages of a trial.

In response to these claims, the prosecutor drew a rabbit from her hat. She presented to the judge a letter which, she claimed, proved that a deputy state attorney approved indicting Tatour for supporting a terrorist organization. Lasky was furious at how the prosecutor suddenly presented a document that had not been submitted to the defense as part of the investigation materials. The prosecutor explained that this was an internal correspondence with the State Attorney’s Office that was not part of the investigation materials. The judge gave Lasky the letter so she could look at it, but the prosecutor snatched it from her hands, claiming Lasky was not allowed to see it.

For a few minutes, a dramatic struggle took place between the prosecutor and the defense attorney, partly as a shouting match and partly by dictating arguments for the court’s records.

Lasky argued that the accused could not be convicted on the basis of materials she had not been allowed to see. The prosecutor gradually withdrew, saying she was ready for Lasky to see the letter but not photograph it. The judge made it clear that if the letter was indeed attached to the case, it would be scanned and accessible for the defense. The prosecutor sought to consult with her superiors, and argued that the entire issue of the necessary approval is an internal procedure that does not oblige her to present approval to the court, and that the court should be satisfied with her declaration that the indictment was submitted with the necessary authority.

Finally, the same letter was presented again to the judge. It was clear that it was not actually an authorization by the attorney general. The judge announced that it would also be given to the defense, which would probably refer to it in her response to the prosecution’s summaries.

Five minutes

Dareen Tatour and supporters waiting for trial 18 Feb 2018

At 8:30 Dareen, Lasky and 15 supporters were already waiting at the court’s door

The hearing was supposed to last an hour and a half. Starting 15 minutes late, after an hour and a quarter of the prosecutor’s summaries, it was already 10 o’clock. Some litigants that were scheduled to appear before the same judge were already waiting in the courtroom. The judge told Lasky: “You have five minutes to summarize.” I still wonder whether she meant this seriously or in jest.

Lasky used the few minutes she had to object to the whole procedure of the supplementary summaries. She reviewed the sequence of events, how it was decided that the summaries would be delivered in writing, followed by the verdict, with no room for further summaries. The nature of the criminal proceeding, she said, citing from legal textbooks, is such that the prosecutor summarizes first, then the defendant is given the right to the last word. There was justification for supplementary summaries because of the additional evidence, but that is not what happened. Lasky demanded to cancel the entire procedure.

In the event that this request is rejected, Lasky explained that she cannot respond without preparation and examination of the prosecution’s new claims, which include references to different court rulings and minutes of Knesset deliberations designated to clarify the legislator’s intention. She said she would prefer to submit a written response.

The judge and the audience

This prolonged and absurd trial always leads to new surprises.

At a certain stage, during the stormy debate over the submission of the letter ostensibly proving that the indictment had been approved, journalist Ofra Yeshua-Lyth, who was sitting next to Tatour, remarked out loud: “Write it down, it was not recorded in the protocol.”

The judge stopped the hearing and asked: “Who said that?”

There was silence in the courtroom and then Ofra said “I”, already prepared to be thrown out of the hall for disturbing the hearing.

However, in lieu of the expected scolding, the judge told Ofra that she should not worry and that the trial was conducted with great fairness.

Since discussion between the judge and the public had been legitimized, Ofra added that she had examined the minutes of the trial and that not everything that was said in the courtroom was recorded.

The judge patiently explained her policy regarding writing the protocol: She explained that there was a heated debate between the prosecution and the defense, and that only what was of legal value was recorded. When some of the audience repeatedly argued that important things were not recorded, the judge replied that if something important was missing in the protocol, the defense could file an official request for its amendment.

Toward the end of the hearing, another activist, Bilha Golan, remarked: “this is a political trial”. In response the judge resumed the rare dialogue with the public. It was, in essence, a lecture by the judge – not to be mentioned in the protocol, of course – designed to prove that this was a fair process whose sole purpose was to enable her to judge objectively, according to the facts presented to her.

“Everyone is here to examine the truth”, the judge claimed. She explained patiently – again – and even said she was talking to us as she sometimes spoke to her children. She even claimed that we were hurting Tatour. According to her, by our one-sided approach, we made Tatour feel that the process was unfair and that she had been wronged!

Activist Hana Safran took the opportunity to remind the judge that while the trial was being held, Tatour’s life had been put on hold for more than two years. Even if she is eventually acquitted, she has suffered greatly – and no one can undo that suffering. The judge replied that the matter of house arrest was not her responsibility, but was rather determined in another proceeding by different judges. The audience remarked that in both processes there is the same prosecutor, but the judge replied that the prosecutor did not rule. She said that anyone who wants Tatour to be released should apply for it in the parallel procedure. Perhaps this judge is unaware that judge Idris, who is responsible for Tatour’s detention, rejected the latest request to revoke her house arrest — without even scheduling a hearing.

What next?

As expected, the judge rejected the defense’s objection to the proceedings.

She told Lasky to choose between summarizing on the spot, and promised that she would stay until the middle of the night to hear her arguments, and presenting written summaries. In the end, she gave Lasky seven days to submit a written response.

Only after receiving these summaries will the judge set a date for announcing the verdict. Until it is given, Dareen Tatour will have lost more than two and a half years of her life to prison and house arrest.

 

Israeli court refuses (again) to release poet Dareen Tatour

(The following report was published in +972. It was initially published in Hebrew in “Local Call” and Haifa Ha-Hofshit. All photos courtesy of Oren Ziv of Activestills.org.)

The media calm in recent months could have fooled the casual reader into thinking that the trial of Dareen Tatour for her poetry has already ended. After all, how much can the state abuse the poet for one poem and two statuses on Facebook?

IMG-2017 11 20-Dareen in courtroom

Dareen Tatour in court, Nov 20, 2017

The silence is misleading. More than two years and two months after her arrest in October 2015, Tatour’s trial drags on languidly in the Nazareth court with no end in sight. On Monday, December 4, the remand judge once again rejected her request to be released from the house arrest imposed on her “until the end of legal proceedings.”

New testimony regarding “The Next Martyr”

Tatour, 35, from Reineh near Nazareth, was arrested by Israeli police on October 11th, 2015, and later indicted of incitement to violence and support of a terrorist organization, all for publishing a poem, “Resist my people, resist them”, and two Facebook statuses. The prosecution claimed that her publications at the beginning of October 2015 should be read in the context of the Palestinian “third intifada”, which

IMG-20171120-WA0001

Dareen Tatour prepared a handmade gift to her lawyers, Gaby Lasky (left) and Haya Abu-Wardeh (right)

was characterized by attacks by unorganized individuals. Tatour replied that in all her publication there is no call for violence, to which she objects, and that they express legitimate protest and call for struggle against Israeli restrictions on the right of Muslims to pray in Al-Aqsa and against the crimes of the occupation and in particular the killing of innocent Palestinians. She also claimed, and brought experts to prove this claim, that the police both mistranslated and misinterpreted her poem.

Following her arrest, Tatour was jailed for three months in three different prisons. She was later released to strict house arrest, forced to wear an ankle monitor. As the authorities demanded that she will be distanced from the Nazareth region, her family had to rent an apartment in Kiryat Ono, just outside Tel Aviv, to hold her there. She was forbidden from using the Internet.

Gradually, through many appeals and legal battles, which met stiff resistance from the prosecution, the conditions of the house arrest were somewhat eased. In July 2016 she was allowed to continue her house arrest at her home, and in November of that year the ankle was removed. Gradually she was allowed to get out of the house for limited hours, but she should be accompanied by custodians at every step.

The last witness in the case was heard on April 27, and the judge gave each of the parties 45 days to submit written summaries. The prosecution requested a postponement and finally submitted its summaries at the end of June.

While working on the defense summaries, the team from Attorney Gabi Lasky’s office came upon an important piece of evidence concerning one of the main points of the indictment, the publication of a profile picture with the text “I’m the next martyr” (the word was written in its masculine form, “shaheed”, in Arabic). In fact, as we learned from the testimonies of the police officers during the trial, the

I am the next martyr

“I’m the next martyr” – the profile picture that started the whole affair. It is designed as an obituary. Facebook shows the publication date – July 2014. The court refused to accept this evidence.

publication of this picture was the immediate trigger for the night raid on the poet’s home and her “military style” detention. Dumb “police intelligence” interpreted this status as a declaration of her intention to carry out an attack. Only after the arrest did officers search through Tatour’s Facebook and found the other publications that are mentioned in the indictment.

Tatour explained during both her police interrogations and testimony in court that she, along with many others, shared this profile picture to protest the killing of innocent Palestinians. It was published, for example, after the burning alive of Muhammad Abu Khdeir in Jerusalem in July 2014, and as a response to the police killing of Kheir Hamdan in Kafr Kana (just near Reineh) in November of that year.

The prosecutor claimed in her summaries that Tatour had lied about the publication date of this picture. As evidence she mentioned that it was found on Tatour’s phone as a file dated just prior to her detention. The police computer expert was asked during cross-examination whether he had checked when Tatour first published the picture. He said he did not know whether there was any way to check it.

The defense found the picture on Tatour’s Facebook page, and Facebook itself clearly shows the date of its first publication in July 2014, as she originally claimed. Moreover, the publication of the picture in the context of protests against Abu Khdeir’s murder also shows the context in which Tatour uses the word shaheed as a “martyr” or “victim” of Israeli violence, rather than as an attacker, a subject that has been at the center of much of the trial.

Evidence of discriminatory enforcement

From the beginning of the trial, the defense argued that Tatour’s arrest and trial constituted discriminatory enforcement, while others who had published far more “offensive” material were neither investigated nor tried. In particular, the defense argued that the attitude of the police and the prosecution is biased against the Arab public. However, the prevailing atmosphere in Israeli courts, which view every Arab protesting against the regime as a security risk, makes this claim difficult to prove. It can always be argued that every publication has special circumstances that are taken into account.

20171204_155021

Tatour and supporters after the court hearing on December 4, 2017

In an unexpected coincidence, the defense found a golden opportunity to strengthen its argument when Israel’s Culture Minister, Miri Regev, published the exact same video on her Facebook page for which Tatour was indicted, in which she reads “Resist My People, Resist Them.” The minister did so in response to the screening of the video as part of reading Tatour’s trial protocols during solidarity event in Jaffa last August. This is no longer a comparison between various publications, since both Regev and Tatour published the very same video. The rough Hebrew translation added by the minister, as well as the new title of the video (“where do you think this video was screened?”) cannot change the “severity” of the publication, had it really been an offense in the first place.

Another important detail is the scope of audience reached by the video. The indictment states that up to a few days after Tatour’s detention, her video was viewed 153 times (according to YouTube’s count, which includes some views by the interrogators themselves). In her summary, the prosecutor speaks of the “enormous potential for exposure” of Tatour publications on the Internet. On the other hand, the same video had tens of thousands of views on Regev’s Facebook page. Surprisingly, the minister was neither arrested nor interrogated, and apparently was not even requested to remove the dangerous video.

Evidence rejected and evidence accepted

Attorney Lasky submitted a request to the court to add the two new pieces of evidence to the case. It should have been a simple technical procedure.

However, in this specific case, the prosecution is conducting a war of attrition on every detail. After lengthy negotiations, an additional hearing of the trial was scheduled for November 15 to discuss the admissibility of the new evidence. In this hearing, the prosecutor demanded that whoever took the screenshot from Tatour’s Facebook page be cross-examined as a condition for its submission. This meant allowing the prosecutor to interrogate either Tatour herself or her attorney, Haya Abu Warda. Finally, the defense team decided not to agree to such an interrogation, which could have opened the door for the prosecutor to raise additional issues, giving up the opportunity to submit the new evidence.

Regarding the video from Regev’s Facebook page, however, the prosecution took a different line. It agreed to submit the video as evidence if the prosecution would also be allowed to submit other videos from Regev’s Facebook page in which she rails against Tatour and those in solidarity with her. For some reason, it was suddenly possible to submit videos from Facebook without the need to interrogate witnesses. Apparently the prosecutor was convinced that Regev’s incitement against Tatour would affect the judge more than the legal argument of discriminatory enforcement.

Oral summaries after written summaries

The prosecutor used the presentation of the additional evidence for yet another procedural victory. When the testimonies stage came to an end, the prosecutor requested to move to oral summaries, while the defense insisted on its right to submit written summaries. When the judge accepted the defense’s request, the prosecutor requested the opportunity to respond to the defense summaries. She explained that during verbal summaries, she could interrupt the defense’s statement, which would not be possible during written summaries. The judge ignored this unusual request.

Now, 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.

Legal struggle over the house arrest

By now it has been over two years and two months since Tatour’s arrest. Even when she is allowed to leave her house during the day, she must be accompanied at all times by a court-authorized custodian. Under such conditions it is clear that she cannot work or live a normal life.

IMG-2017 11 20-full courtroom

Full courtroom – November 20, 2017

In most cases, the conditions of detention are relieved with the passage of time with the consent of the prosecution. But in Tatour’s case, the prosecution continues to stress the poet’s supposed dangerousness and opposes any relief. In view of the prolonged trial with no clear end date, Lasky filed an application to cancel Tatour’s house arrest. The request was heard on November 20 before Judge Naaman Idris, the same judge who, two years ago, ordered Tatour’s detention until the end of legal proceedings. The hall was full of friends who came to support the poet, hoping that the show of support would encourage the judge rethink the case. The prosecutor repeated her objection to granting Tatour any relief without even bothering to explain.

The judge delayed his judgment to December 4. When we arrived at the appointed time, about ten friends and family, the judge allowed us “dry” in his room for about an hour and a half while he was handling many other cases. Finally, he was kind enough to make a short statement, which required less than a minute, announcing that he had rejected the request to cancel the detention. The judgment itself was already written before the hearing. In order to show that he does not ignore the lengthening of the detention for such a long period of time, he extended the period during which Tatour is allowed to leave the house, to between 9 a.m. and 10 p.m., but  she still must be accompanied by a custodian, which means that the relief is only symbolic.

You may read details about all the hearings in Dareen Tatour’s trial and follow the latest updates in http://FreeDareenTatour.org/trial

 

Dareen Tatour’s Trial: Step by Step

As I tried to make some order in the new “Free Dareen Tatour” site – I found it might be helpful to have all the hearings of the trial described in chronological order – with links to detailed reports for each hearing. I liked it so much that I re-publish it here. Any comment or proposals for additional links will be most welcomed.

On October 11, 2015, Palestinian poet Dareen Tatour was arrested by the Israeli police in a pre-dawn raid on her house in Reineh.

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. From this post the indictment infers 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 June 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.

You can follow the links for a report in English about this hearing, or for a more detailed Hebrew report.

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.

Another policeman gave evidence about details of Tatour’s interrogation. See a report here (and in Hebrew).

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”.

You can see detailed reports about this hearing in Arabic and Hebrew.

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 prosecutor rested her case.

Tatour had to start her testimony on the same day, but the court failed to find a translator.

You can follow the link for a detailed report about this hearing (and in Hebrew).

Fifth to seventh hearings, November 17 & 24, 2016 and January 26, 2017 – Tatour’s testimony

On November 17 the trial resumed 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.

You can read more about it here in Mondoweiss (and in Hebrew here and here).

Eighth hearing, March 19, 2017 – Experts’ opinion for the defense

On March 19, 2017, the defense 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. They were never prosecuted for their poetry by these undemocratic regimes like Tatour is now targeted by supposedly “democratic” 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.

These counter interrogations 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.

You can read more about it in English (also here and here), in Spanishin Hebrew (also here and here) and in Arabic.

Ninth hearing, March 28, 2017 – The defense claims discrimination in the enforcement of the law

On March 28 the defense brought as a witness a police officer, who presented to the court a statistical report about interrogations and indictments concerning incitement. The defense 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 defense rested its case, but then the prosecution surprised everybody with a request to present more evidence.

You can read about it here (and in Hebrew).

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 defense 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 was 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”.

Detailed report in Hebrew about this hearing was published in Free Haifa and Local Call.

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 defense prove that the defense’s translation is not reliable!

October 17, 2017 – Date set for verdict postponed

The defense 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 defense

Defense 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 defense 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…

You can read more about the new evidence here (and in Hebrew here).

December 28, 2017 – Oral Summaries Postponed

When the testimonies stage came to an end, the prosecutor requested to move to oral summaries, while the defense insisted on its right to submit written summaries. When the judge accepted the defense’s request, the prosecutor requested the opportunity to respond to the defense summaries. She explained that during verbal summaries she could interrupt the defense’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 defense 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 defense 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 defense summaries. The judge agreed and postponed the oral summaries to January 28, 2018. The defense protested at the idea that the prosecution should be given the right to answer the defense 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 defense 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 defense 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, defense 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

Initially the judge set the date for the verdict to april 24. Apparently she wanted some more time to write her conclusions – so today (April 18, 2018) she informed Dareen’s lawyer, Gaby Lasky, that the verdict will be postponed – and will be finally announced on May 3, at 11:00.

Dareen is already two years and a half under detention… She was held initially for three months in different Israeli prisons and since then under house arrest. In the parallel legal process concerning Dareen’s detention, the last request by attorney Lasky to abolish her house arrest was refused on December 4, 2017.

 

US Literary Figures Renew Call for Freedom for Palestinian Poet Dareen Tatour

Eileen Myles, Naomi Shihab Nye, Ayelet Waldman, Jacqueline Woodson among writers in solidarity with imprisoned poet

August 29, 2017 – Prominent US poets, writers, playwrights and publishers issued statements today in support of imprisoned Palestinian poet Dareen Tatour ahead of her upcoming trial verdict on October 17.  The statements calling for her freedom, and demanding that Israel drop all charges against Dareen, released by Jewish Voice for Peace and Adalah-NY, come just as the Israeli government threatens to cut funding to a Yaffa Theater that agreed to host an artists’ solidarity event for Tatour on August 30th. Tatour, a Palestinian citizen of Israel, was arrested by Israeli authorities 22 months ago, in October 2015, and charged with incitement to violence primarily over a poem she posted online, “Resist, My People, Resist Them,” as well as two Facebook posts.

Following an initial three months of imprisonment after her arrest, Tatour has been held under house arrest for over a year-and-a-half. At her upcoming October 17 court date she expects to receive a verdict from an Israel court with high rates of conviction for both Palestinians living under Israeli military occupation as well as Palestinian citizens of Israel.

Numerous freedom of expression and literary organizations including PEN InternationalPEN America, and PEN South Africa have called for Tatour’s freedom, as have many Israeli artists and Israeli citizens. The 12 literary figures whose statements are being issued today are among 300 writers, including 11 Pulitzer Prize-winners, who signed a 2016 letter calling for freedom for Tatour after she was first arrested. These statements of solidarity with Dareen Tatour come from: Susan Abulhawa, Ben Ehrenreich, Deborah Eisenberg, Marilyn Hacker, Randa Jarrar, MJ Kaufman, Eileen Myles, Naomi Shihab Nye, John Oakes, Sarah Schulman, Ayelet Waldman and Jacqueline Woodson. Six of the statements follow. All 12 statements are available here.

Ben Ehrenreich, Writer: “When one fights without fear—when one fights with love instead, fighting looks like something else entirely. Like poetry. Dareen Tatour resists without fear, with poetry and with love, and they will not silence her. Stay strong, Dareen—we are with you.”

Randa Jarrar, Writer: “We must call on the international community to place pressure on Israel to release Dareen and other political prisoners whose ‘crimes’ are those of self-expression and resistance. No one should be forbidden from using the internet, publishing their writing, or attending events, whether they be political or not. The fact that writer Dareen Tatour continues to be placed under house arrest and only allowed out with a guardian is misogynist, racist, and unjust.”

Eileen Myles, Poet: Israel’s claim to be a democracy is roundly trounced by this attempt to silence Dareen Tatour. Language lives and dies in poetry and the human cry for freedom breathes in a poets utterance. A poet never stands alone and I’m proud to stand with the people of Palestine and globally who demand that Dareen Tatour’s voice and words are not criminalized, penalized and obstructed. As a human and a citizen of the earth it is her and all of our right to write and be heard.

Naomi Shihab Nye, Poet and Writer: “It’s an absolute outrage that poet Dareen Tatour has been treated this way by so-called democracy Israel for speaking truth and using the word Resist. We all resist. She deserves nothing but freedom and even bigger paper and more pens! We speak up for her in the name of justice and our own tax dollars channeled Israel’s direction for way too many years.”

Ayelet Waldman, Writer: “Two years ago Dareen Tatour was torn from her home in the middle of the night. A poet, incarcerated by Netanyahu’s right wing government for the crime of making her art. This must stop. She must be released.”

Jacqueline Woodson, Poet and Author: “I believe Dareen Tatour should be free to leave her home, to write what she needs to write for her own empowerment, to live her life as poet. Freely.”

Although the conditions of her house arrest were somewhat improved after the public outcry from the literary and international community in 2016, Dareen is still forbidden from using the internet, publishing any of her writings, or participating in any political events.

Dareen Tatour’s case represents just one of countless examples of Israel’s systematic suppression of Palestinian arts, culture and political expression. For example, Israel’s Minister of Culture Miri Regev continues to try to ban public readings of the poetry of the late, renowned Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish, and to shut down plays about Palestinian prisoners. Just recently, 67-year-old writer Ahmad Qatamesh was released by Israel after three months of imprisonment without charge. Dr. Qatamesh, named a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International, has been jailed periodically for eight of the last 25 years.

Over 400 Palestinians, in both the occupied Palestinian territories and in Israel have been arrested for posts on social media in the last year alone. According to the Palestinian prisoners’ rights group Addameer, Israel currently holds 6,128 Palestinian political prisoners, including 450 Palestinian “administrative detainees” held without charge or trial, 320 child prisoners and 62 Palestinian women. Since 1967 more than 800,000 Palestinians from the occupied Palestinian territories (oPt) have been detained under Israeli military orders.

The full list of new statements from literary figures can be viewed here.

###

Jewish Voice for Peace is a national, grassroots organization inspired by Jewish tradition to work for a just and lasting peace  according to principles of human rights, equality, and international law for  all the people of Israel and Palestine. JVP has over 200,000 online supporters,  over 70 chapters, a youth wing, a Rabbinic Council, an Artist Council, an  Academic Advisory Council, and an Advisory Board made up of leading U.S.  intellectuals and artists.

Adalah-NY: The New York Campaign for the Boycott of Israel is a local, grassroots, non-hierarchical volunteer-only group of concerned individuals that advocates for justice, equality, and human rights for the Palestinian people. Adalah-NY organizes in support of the 2005 call by Palestinian civil society to maintain non-violent means of protest — including boycotts, divestment, and sanctions — until Israel respects Palestinians’ fundamental rights.

Some breathing space in Dareen Tatour’s house detention

As we went out of the crowded courtroom of judge Margalit in Nazareth, we were all smiles. The tense waiting for the judge’s decision gave way to hugging and bursts of laughter. It is astonishing how happy you can be for such a little victory. After all, Dareen Tatour will soon finish her second year in detention for writing a perfectly legitimate protest poem, and within a few months she is expected to be sentenced and there is a real danger that she will be sent for another period in prison.Dareen celebrating victory 3 supervisors

But this was the time to celebrate a small victory. I couldn’t avoid the comparison with the much larger recent victory of the struggle of the Palestinian people that forced the Israeli occupation to remove the new harassing “security” arrangements from around the Al-Aqsa mosque. Cold headed analysts summed it at “the magnetometers went out, the occupation is here to stay”. But still it was a big victory to popular struggle and it showed that there is some limit to the power of evil. It was rightly celebrated on the street of Jerusalem as an important step on the way to liberty.

Time has many dimensions

Whenever Dareen Tatour requests for relief in the conditions of her detention, the prosecution and judges pretend to know nothing about the constant delays in their courts, and claim that the trial is going to end so soon that any change will be just unnecessary burden on the system. Last time, on May 22, when the judge allowed Dareen to go out of the house between 9am and 7pm, she said she assumes this is the last request for relief. But she limited Dareen by stating that she can’t go out of the house unless accompanied at every moment by one of her 5 certified “supervisors” – her parents, two brothers and a sister in law. The official reasoning was that, as Dareen is prevented from any access to the internet, there should be somebody to watch her at any moment to make sure that she doesn’t touch a smartphone or a computer. At the occasion she also added a new condition that prevents Dareen from attending any political gathering and demanded an upfront payment of another 6,000 shekel on top of all the previous bails. (A detailed report in Hebrew).

Dareen_consulting_Lawyer_Haya

Consulting advocate Haya Abu Warda

But this “solution” created a new problem. Four of the five “supervisors” are working every day, and Dareen’s mother is busy caring for a bunch of her small grandchildren while their parents are at work. So Dareen could hardly enjoy her promised new freedom and is still forced to stay in the house all day long. The real solution was to let Dareen free, at least until the end of the trial, which is the case of many violent criminals in Israeli courts. But, knowing the hard stance of the prosecution in this particular case, three of the women that accompany Dareen in her ordeal volunteered to provide a practical partial solution by asking to be certified as supervisors in order to enable Dareen get out of her house more frequently.

The request to add the three new supervisors was presented by Dareen’s lawyers to the court, which requested them to get the position of the prosecution before setting a hearing. The prosecution first didn’t reply, then said they are ready to allow only two new supervisors, and finally, after dragging the issue for about two months, refused to accept any new supervisors. Finally the court set the date to hear the plea for August 1st, at 9am.

Luck and Reason

On that morning judge Margalit was on rotating duty to hear all the coming detention cases. The courtroom was full, as well as the waiting hall. After he finished sending a poor (blonde Jewish) women for 3 months in jail for “refusing to obey a legal order” and “disrupting a policeman’s work”, he freed himself to serve the many groups of prosecutors, lawyers, detainees and family members that were flocking the room. We readied ourselves for a long wait, but were surprised to hear the name Dareen Tatour coming first – maybe it is our lucky day.

The prosecution was represented by lawyer Ruba Abu Dakka, whom we didn’t see on this case before, probably also in rotating duty while others are on holidays. The judge, who is used to release all types of suspects, including hardened criminals, on a daily basis, and to certify all types of “supervisors”, asked the prosecutor whether there can be an agreement. She said no. So he brought in the proposed supervisors for interrogation, one by one.

Dareen_Haya_Edith_Bilha

Left to right: Edith, Haya, Dareen, Bilha

The first to be interrogated was Ofra Yeshua Lyth from Yaffa (Jaffa). She told the judge that she knows Dareen from the days that she was under house detention in Kiryat Ono, near Tel Aviv, and that she used to drive Dareen to the court hearings. When asked whether she can come from Yaffa to take care of Dareen in faraway Reineh, she explained that last Friday she did just this – but in addition to taking Dareen for a trip she had to take her father with them as a certified guardian, making him miss another work-day. And here she is today in the Nazareth court again at 9am…

In the “counter interrogation” the prosecutor tried to deter her, telling her that the trial may last many more months, and asking whether she will be able to supervise Dareen over all this period… As if she doesn’t understand that adding more supervisors will make the task easier for all and the new supervisor-friends get the “privilege” to be allowed to take Dareen with them out of the house and not an obligation to do it every day.

The judge was curious and asked a special question “in the name of the court”. Are you a member of some association or a political party? Ofra was happy to answer that she is a member of an association called “I’m an Israeli” that tried to convince the Israeli authorities to declare a unified “Israeli nationality” for all the state’s citizens. They even appealed to the Israeli high court, but their appeal was rejected. The judge seemed satisfied to be able to put the whole case in some political category and asked (not to the protocol) whether all the three candidates belong to the same association.

Finally the prosecutor asked Ofra what she will do in case she would have to go to some political gathering… Ofra promised that she will not take Dareen with her.

Anti-Climax

As Ofra was interrogated the other two volunteers, Bilha Golan and Edith Breslauer, had to wait outside, not to be exposed to the secrets of the interrogation unless their replies will lose authenticity. But even the most foolish confrontation make you tired, and each of the next two interrogations became shorter.

They centered on the main technicalities that are always part of the interrogation of bailers… Do you know what Dareen is accused of? Do you know what limitations are imposed on her? What will you do if she will try to look at the internet? Will you not hesitate to call the police? Are you ready to sign a fiscal guarantee?

Answering the question about what Dareen is accused of gave a rare opportunity to get out of the regular script. Edith said she knows that Dareen is on trial because she wrote some post on Facebook that was misinterpreted. She added that she read Dareen’s poem and doesn’t think it justifies her house detention.

After everything went just perfect, the judge asked the prosecutor again whether there can be an agreed decision… She wanted to call her superiors and went out. After some time she came back and told the judge she has no answer yet. This was too much for the judge that thought the answers in his court come from him. So he let the two sides summarize their positions.

Lawyer Abu Dakka tried to justify the prosecution’s refusenik position. As she didn’t find any reason to object to the new supervisors, she made herself as if she is defending the decision of the previous judge on May 22. She said this decision already made the correct balance between the need to safeguard state security against the danger that Dareen Tatour constitutes and Dareen’s right to freedom. She didn’t mention, of course, that on May 22 the prosecution also objected strongly to letting Dareen to get out of her house for more than 2 hours daily, in the name of the same fake danger to the public.

Victory_Dareen_and_Lawyer_Haya

Celebrating victory with lawyer Haya Abu Warda

Advocate Haya Abu Warda reminded the court that with the current supervisors Dareen can’t use even the limited freedom that was promised to her in the previous decision. The judge agreed to add the three new supervisors as requested.

(There is a somewhat different report about the same events in Hebrew in Haifa Ha-Hofshit.)

Updates about the trial

In the meantime, the prosecutor has already presented her written 34 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 defense prove that the defense’s translation is not reliable!

Now advocate Gaby Lasky is working on her summaries to disprove all the prosecution’s lies and distortions… It will not be ready before September and the trial will probably not be finished before Dareen will complete her second year of detention on October 11… (For regular updates about the trial check here.)

Solidarity

Keep the date: On August 30 supporters of Dareen Tatour and Freedom of Expression are planning a special solidarity night in Yaffa with a rich artistic program.

We hope more solidarity work will be organized locally and worldwide as the trial is approaching its critical stage toward the verdict.

In the meantime we set up a small Free Dareen Tatour site with updates about the case, in addition to our Facebook page.

And we are still collecting donations to cover the legal expenses.