Free Palestinian political prisoner Lina Khattab!

Birzeit University students march calling for the release of Lina Khattab and other student prisoners, December 2014. Photo: Pro

Palestinian student Lina Khattab, 18, a first-year media student at Birzeit University, was sentenced by an Israeli military court to six months imprisonment, a NIS6000 (US$1500) fine and three years probation on February 17.

She is also a folkloric dancer with the world-renowned El-Funoun Popular Palestinian Dance Troupe and is active in other cultural and political student activities at the university.

She was arrested on December 13 in Beitunia when she and other Birzeit students participated in a march towards Ofer military prison, protesting in solidarity with Palestinian political prisoners.

She was charged with “throwing stones” and “participating in an unlawful demonstration,” two charges frequently used by the Israeli military against Palestinians participating in public protests against the military occupation. She was sentenced by Israeli military courts, reserved for Palestinians under occupation, that have a 99.74% conviction rate.

Earlier, on January 12, she was denied bail at a hearing in which the military judge said: “Looking at her, I can see the characteristics of a leader.”

Palestinian students frequently face arrest and imprisonment for campus activities, including involvement in student union elections, student protests, and campus activist organisations and student government blocs.

Khattab reported through her lawyer that she had been abused and beaten by Israeli soldiers during her detention, and one of the soldiers hit her, ripped her clothes and shouted obscene insults at her. She has been denied family visits since her arrest.

On December 28, the Progressive Student Action Front and the Palestinian Prisoners’ Committee held a sit-in at the International Committee of the Red Cross building in Gaza City calling for her freedom and that of all Palestinian political prisoners. The protest was coordinated with the Progressive Democratic Student Pole of Birzeit University.

At the sit-in, student Lina Abu Sharkh saluted her fellow student organisers at Birzeit University for their constant activity in defending the Palestinian cause and particularly the rights of prisoners.

“The Palestinian prisoners are the first line of defence confronting the occupation and its racist nature in Israeli jails, despite all the difficult conditions they face,” she said.

She also denounced Israeli prison authorities for extending the ban on family visits for imprisoned Palestinian leader Ahmad Sa’adat for an additional three months.

He has been denied family visits since September last year. “These orders will not break the will of steadfastness and resistance, and such attempts to pressure and isolate Palestinian leaders inside Israeli jails are doomed to fail,” said Abu Sharkh.

Khattab’s mother, Samira Shaladeh told the Electronic Intifada: “Lina was brought into court, surrounded by a large troop of soldiers, her hands and feet cuffed. The court would not allow me to touch her and talk to her. I said that I am Lina’s mother, and it is my right to touch her and hug her, but the judge refused and told me that it is forbidden.

“I am a mother, my daughter was in front of me and I was forbidden from expressing my feelings. My baby was shackled hand and foot and I can do nothing. This occupation and the silence of the world are killing our children.

“Lina represents an entire people uprooted from their land by force of arms. Every day the occupation strikes and kills and demolishes, arrests, desecrates holy places, takes away farmers’ land and builds settlements. It forces Palestinians out while seeking to bring Jews from around the world to support its claims to a fake democracy.

“The truth is that the Palestinian people want to recover their homeland and achieve freedom for their people, and Lina is a part of this truth, rejecting steadfastly all of this violence against our people.

“Lina is still holding strong in the prison and her morale is high. Imprisonment does not worry her. Lina rejects the fabricated charges against her.

“I urge the solidarity organizations, those around the world who defend the rights of the Palestinian people, to raise the slogan of freedom for the student Lina Khattab and all imprisoned Palestinian students. She has the right to study media, like every other student at Birzeit University. We are struggling for Lina’s right to her freedom, to re-enter school and live her life like youth around the world.

“Lina dreams of a free Palestine, free from all forms of violence and oppression. She is a voice of truth and dignity in this unjust world.”

[Abridged from Electronic Intifada and samidoun.ca. More information on the international student campaign to free Lina Khattab can be found here.]

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