The Military Court of Appeals ruled that Bassem Tamimi, central organizer of popular demonstrations in Nabi Saleh, will be released on bail Tuesday night after more than a year in prison. The ruling may be a sign of his coming acquittal as Palestinian detainees almost never make bail.
Tamimi is one of the central figures in the popular struggle against the settlements’ land theft in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh, and a symbol of the non-violent resistance to the occupation on the whole. Following an arrest in his home on the 24th of March 2011, the military court ruled that Tamimi will stay in prison until the end of legal proceedings against him, no matter how long these take. This is a standard procedure with Palestinians as military courts argue that re-apprehension on the event of flight would be extremely difficult, and therefore usually deny bail.
Since then Tamimi has declared that he does not recognize the court of the occupier, branding it counter-democratic, and reaffirming his commitment to the non-violent struggle. As his trial unfolded, it became clear that the prosecution’s whole case against Tamimi – who is charged with inciting the village’s youth to hurl stones at soldiers – is based on the testimonies of two teenagers, snatched from their beds at the dead of night, and interrogated without the presence of an adult or without being told of their right to remain silent.
Recently the court decided to allow Tamimi a release on bail. The military prosecution appealed the decision, but was today denied, and Tamimi was freed Tuesday evening after friends deposited bail, and he himself was told not to leave the Ramallah area.
This might be a sign that the court is either considering acquitting Tamimi in the next trial session, planned for May 15, or that the judges believe he will not get a sentence higher than 13 months. The convication rate of Palestinians in Israeli military prisons, by the way, is 99.74 percent. About two weeks ago Tamimi was released for 48 hours to visit his mother in hospital. His return from this short vacation might also have influenced the court’s decision.