The Israeli authorities must drop all charges against a Palestinian human rights lawyer now released on bail, Amnesty International said.
A military judge at Ofer Military Court ordered the release of Anas Barghouti on bail because confessions from other detainees submitted as evidence failed to prove he is a security threat. The accusations against him relate to alleged activities from over a year ago.
“The release of Anas Barghouti is positive news but he should have never been detained and charged in the first place,” said Philip Luther, Middle East and North Africa Program Director at Amnesty International.
“It is unacceptable for Israeli authorities to continue to prosecute activists because of their peaceful work in defence of human rights. This release should be a first step towards the authorities ending their harassment of Palestinian human rights defenders.”
Barghouti, a lawyer with the Addameer Association for Prisoner Support and Human Rights, was arrested by the Israeli army on September 15 at a checkpoint north of Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank.
Nine days later, he was charged with “membership in the Palestinian Front for the Liberation of Palestine”, a group Israel has banned, and “leadership of a committee to organise demonstrations”. He denies both charges.
If convicted on these charges, Barghouti faces up to 18 months in jail. In that happens, Amnesty would consider him to be a prisoner of conscience, jailed solely for his work on behalf of prisoners and the peaceful expression of his views.
The Addameer Association for Prisoner Support and Human Rights provides legal support to Palestinians held by the Palestinian Authority’s security forces and campaigns for the rights of Palestinians imprisoned by Israel.
His arrest is part of a pattern of harassment by the Israeli authorities of Palestinian human rights groups and activists in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, which includes arbitrary detentions, restrictions on movement, and raids of homes and offices.