Palestinian women’s rights activist sentenced after long detention in Israel without charge

The detention and sentencing of Khitam Saafin has been described as “an attempt to intimidate us and silence the voices defending human rights in Palestine”.

Activists described Saafin’s detention as part of a sustained campaign of Israeli harassment [Getty]

An Israeli military court on Sunday sentenced a prominent Palestinian women’s rights activist to 15 months in prison, after she had already served one year and three months in detention without charge.

Khitam Saafin, 59, is the chairperson of the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees (UPWC) – one of six Palestinian civil society groups designated as “terrorist” organizations by Israel in October. Saafin was convicted of acting as the director of a banned organization, among other charges.

Saafin was arrested in early November 2020 under a six-month administrative detention order. The Israeli military prosecutor’s office accused her of belonging to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).

The Israeli prosecutor’s office later dropped that charge, but presented a new case against her that included the previous charge and a series of new charges ‘not directly related to her activities’, according to a spokesperson for the rights group. Addameer.

The spokesperson, who preferred not to be named, said The new Arabic that “the accusations against Saafin are essentially exaggerations of his public activity as head of the UPWC, such as fundraising, organizing protests and dealings with other civil organisations”.

They added 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 – another of the six NGOs banned by Israel – said Saafin’s imprisonment is part of an ongoing campaign of Israeli harassment of security groups. Palestinian civil society.

“The condemnation of Khitam Saafin is an attempt to intimidate us and silence the voices that defend human rights in Palestine,” Jabarin said. The new Arabic.

He promised that “Palestinian civil organizations will continue their work despite these attempts”.

Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s labeling of Palestinian NGOs as “terrorist” groups in October was followed by a military order effectively banning the six organizations in November.

Later that month, six Palestinian activists and employees of banned civil society groups announced that their phones had been hacked with Israeli spyware “Pegasus”. The announcement was reported by the Irish non-profit organization “Front Line Defenders”, in collaboration with Amnesty International.