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Palestinian activist to get prize by video

Palestinian activist to get prize by video

The head of a leading Palestinian human rights group prepared Wednesday to accept a major Dutch prize by video conference from his West Bank office.
Shawan Jabarin, director of the al-Haq organization, had hoped to travel to the Netherlands to accept the "Geuzenpenning Prize" on behalf of his organization, but the Israeli Supreme Court upheld a three-year-old travel ban on the 48-year-old activist, citing security concerns.
Jabarin said the charges were politically motivated, targeting him for his work documenting Israeli human rights violations in the West Bank. He said the ruling was based on secret evidence that he has never been able to see or challenge in court.
Court documents show that Jabarin was convicted by an Israeli court in 1985 of activity on behalf of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a tiny PLO faction considered a terror group by Israel. He served nine months in prison.
He was detained without trial in 1994 on charges he remained active in the group, according to court documents.
In its ruling Tuesday, the Israeli Supreme Court quoted a 2007 decision that Jabarin "has a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde existence, part of the time managing a rights group and another part of the time taking part in a terror group that does not flinch from acts of murder and attempted murder."
In an interview in his Ramallah office on Wednesday, Jabarin said he had joined a PFLP student group for "a few months" in the early 1980s while a student at the West Bank's Bir Zeit University. He said he threw stones as a teenager but never participated in other violence against Israel.
Jabarin said his problems with Israeli security started in 1979, when he testified against Jewish settlers he said he saw shoot and kill a Palestinian student. He was arrested and interrogated the same day, he said, and prevented later that year from traveling to Romania, where he had received a scholarship to study medicine.
Jabarin said he had been arrested dozens of times since and often banned from traveling. He received a Master of Laws (LL.M.) degree in Ireland in 2005, but has been unable to travel since becoming the head of al-Haq in 2006.
Jabarin criticized the court for upholding the ban, calling it "a rubber stamp for the military and security services." The decision was based on secret evidence presented to the judge while everyone else _ including Jabarin and his lawyer _ were made to wait outside the courtroom, he said.
In its Tuesday ruling, the Israeli court agreed that keeping the evidence secret made it harder for Jabarin to defend himself, but said that hearing was not the right place to contest the secrecy.
The decision came despite an appeal by Dutch Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen to his Israeli counterpart last week to let Jabarin travel.
Verhagen called the decision "disappointing and worrying," adding in a statement, "The Israeli judge's ruling that he is a member of a terror group is based on evidence that Jabarin and his lawyers have not been able to see. That means he could not adequately defend himself."
Previous winners of the Geuzenpenning Prize include kidnapped Colombian presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt and watchdog groups Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.
Although he'd only be able to thank the foundation by videoconference, Jabarin said the ruling strengthened his resolve, both to continue his work and to get the ban lifted.
"I have no doubt that I will get my freedom," he said.


Updated : 2021-06-23 14:31 GMT+08:00