European Union’s top diplomat criticized Israel on Aug. 25 over the conviction of a leader of Palestinian protests against the West Bank separation barrier. Catherine Ashton said she was deeply concerned by the guilty verdict against Abdullah Abu Rahmeh, one of the organizers of weekly marches from he Palestinian village of Bil’in to the co-called “apartheid wall” nearby.
Israel started taking a harder line against demonstrations in the West Bank late last year, arresting activists and keeping protesters from reaching the barrier. Abu Rahmeh, a 39-year-old schoolteacher, is among the most prominent of those detained in a string of arrests. Jailed since December, he was convicted in a military court Aug. 24 of inciting protesters to attack Israeli troops and for participating in demonstrations without a legal permit. The case has drawn international attention, and foreign observers and reporters attended the hearing. The EU sees the barrier’s route as illegal and views Abu Rahmeh as a human rights defender committed to nonviolent protest, Ashton said. (Haartez, Aug. 25)