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Israeli peace activists face crackdown


Israeli dissidents, opposed to their country's military offensive in Gaza, have run into a police crackdown on a scale not seen in nearly a decade, say human rights campaigners here. Since the launch of the Gaza offensive two weeks ago, at least 500 Israeli peace activists have been arrested and jailed, all but a few of them Arab Israelis. At least 200 are still behind bars. "We're talking about mass arrests," said Abeer Baker, a member of Adalah, a group that lobbies on behalf of Israel's Arab minority of 1.5 million people...


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Israeli peace activists face crackdown

Oakland Ross, TheStar.com

200 still behind bars after taking part in protests against their country's military offensive in Gaza

January 10, 2009


JERUSALEMľIsraeli dissidents, opposed to their country's military offensive in Gaza, have run into a police crackdown on a scale not seen in nearly a decade, say human rights campaigners here.

Since the launch of the Gaza offensive two weeks ago, at least 500 Israeli peace activists have been arrested and jailed, all but a few of them Arab Israelis. At least 200 are still behind bars.

"We're talking about mass arrests," said Abeer Baker, a member of Adalah, a group that lobbies on behalf of Israel's Arab minority of 1.5 million people.

Not only are protesters being arrested on a scale not seen since the beginning of the second intifada ľ a Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation that began in September 2000 ľ but they are being held in prison for longer periods than in the past, say rights advocates.

"What we are seeing is an attempt to intimidate the people," said Adar Grayevsky, a Jewish law student and peace activist who spent three days in jail after being arrested during what she said was a peaceful anti-war protest in Tel Aviv Jan. 2. "There was a time when we would be released in a few hours."

Some of the activists arrested during recent protests have already been in prison for two weeks.

Prosecutors have 30 days from the time a suspect is arrested until they must issue an indictment. During this period, they are not required to show their evidence to defence lawyers, and the court may order that the suspect remain in detention.

"The defence is in a situation where they don't have access to the evidence," said Orna Kohn, staff attorney at Adalah. "It's very easy for police to keep the person and hard for the defence to show why they shouldn't."

She said the length of such detentions has increased significantly during the current Gaza offensive.

"It seems like a deliberate policy."

The system routinely treats Arabs more severely than Jews, said Grayevsky, but Jewish activists have also been encountering harsher treatment of late.

"This is the first time I can recall in my five years of demonstrating that a Jewish Israeli (peace activist) was detained for more than one night," she said. Her arrest followed her participation in a brief demonstration outside a Tel Aviv air base.

"It was a `die-in,'" she said, explaining she and 18 other demonstrators lay down by the side of the road, to show solidarity with people in Gaza, whose death toll in the current conflict is approaching 800.

"It lasted for a minute. The people did not even block the road."

Police Insp. Mickey Rosenfeld denied there has been any recent change in procedures.

"The majority of demonstrations are carried out in full co-ordination with the police," he said. "But people have taken advantage of the law, and it's perfectly legitimate for the police to react."

Rosenfeld put the number of activists arrested in the past fortnight at more than 600, a figure even higher than the 500 or so claimed by peace groups.

Regarding Grayevsky's die-in protest, he said demonstrators were blocking the road and later attacked police officers. "In cases like that," he said, "it's perfectly legitimate to make arrests."





:: Article nr. 50710 sent on 12-jan-2008 08:36 ECT

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