Palestinian women’s rights activist Khitam Saafin sentenced to 16 months in prison: Peoples Dispatch

Khitam Saafin.

On Wednesday (February 16th), an Israeli military court sentenced Khitam Saafin, a prominent Palestinian women’s rights activist and president of the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees (UPWC), to 16 months in prison, as well as a fine of 1,500 Israeli shekels (460 USD). Saafin is currently imprisoned in Israel under the controversial administrative detention policy.

Saafin, 59, was arrested by Israeli security forces in November 2020 and held in administrative detention for six months after Israeli authorities accused her of being a member of the banned left-wing resistance organization Popular Front of Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). Authorities later dropped that charge against Saafin and replaced it with others, including several new charges not directly related to his activities. An earlier charge against her was also renewed. Reports said that one of the charges against her was that she served as the director of the now-banned organization UPWC.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a spokesperson for human rights group Addameer told the media that “the charges against Saafin are essentially exaggerations of his public activity as head of the UPWC, such as fundraising, organizing protests, and connecting with other civic organizations.” The group also noted that “after negotiations with Addameer’s lawyer, the Israeli military prosecutor’s office agreed to limit the list of charges. In the end, the court counted only 4 months of Saafin’s detention without charge as part of his new sentence. Shawan Jabarin, director of the Palestinian human rights group Al-Haq, among six Palestinian rights groups banned by Israel last year, said Saafin’s conviction is “an attempt to intimidate and silence the voices defending human rights in Palestine”, while promising that “Palestinian civil organizations will continue our work despite these attempts”.

The UPWC, along with five other Palestinian groups, were branded “terrorist organizations” and banned by Israel in October last year. The Israeli Defense Minister’s announcement sparked universal outcry and concern from local and international rights groups who called it a direct attack on Palestinian human rights and the international movement. human rights. There have been repeated calls from the international community for Israel to reverse the ban and end the harassment of Palestinian rights groups.

Saafin’s 2020 arrest in a violent night raid, part of a series of simultaneous raids across the occupied West Bank by Israeli security forces, has been condemned by women’s and human rights groups of the whole world. The timed raids led to the arrest and detention of several other leftists, human rights activists and labor leaders. The Union of Palestinian Working Women’s Committees, the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees, the World March of Women-MENA Region, the Women’s Sector – Democratic Way (Morocco) and the Jin Women’s Association (Lebanon) condemned the raids and expressed their solidarity with all those detained. Rights groups have also called for vigorous international and regional campaigns to pressure Israel and mobilize support for its release.