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The right to legal, peaceful demonstration under attack

acriEmail communication from Melanie Takefman, International Communication and Development Coordinator, ACRI, 21 January 2010

ACRI: Freedom of expression and last week’s arrests

Dear Friends,

I am writing to share with you some disturbing news: On Friday, January 15, 17 protesters, including ACRI’s Executive Director Hagai El-Ad, were arrested at a peaceful, legal demonstration in Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem. Following a late-night Court hearing on Saturday night, all 17 protesters were released without charge or conditions. The ruling speaks for itself. The Court stated that the Police were at fault as the gathering did not require a permit and was therefore not illegal. Furthermore, the ruling stated there were no legal grounds for dissolving the demonstration or for the arrests.

The demonstration was the latest in a series of weekly protests which have taken place over the past five months, wherein Israelis and Palestinians have peacefully challenged the eviction of two Palestinian families from the homes they’ve lived in since 1948 so as to allow Jewish families, who owned the houses prior to the 1948 war, to again inhabit them, in accordance with a Court order. The homes are located in the heart of a Palestinian neighborhood; for an explanation of the asymmetry of this case, please read an analysis from yesterday’s Jerusalem Post.

To date, 70 protesters have been arrested at these demonstrations. ACRI condemns the arrests of the demonstrators in the strongest terms. Though we have not been involved in organizing or participating in the protests officially, we have provided consultation to the activists and have acted as observers to ensure the right to protest is adequately safeguarded.

Following the arrests and ahead of tomorrow’s planned protest, we have intervened twice before Israel ‘s Attorney General (translation from Hebrew of first intervention attached) to ensure that the police protect the protesters’ rights
Notwithstanding the subject of the demonstration, we view the events of last weekend as part of a worrying trend on the part of the authorities to limit freedom of demonstration and arrest demonstrators under false or illegitimate pretenses. ACRI will remain at the forefront of the struggle to safeguard freedom of expression and the right to demonstrate, specifically those of human rights defenders, values which are essential to Israeli democracy and the protection of human rights for all. As such, we value your support as friends, as we continue our critical and much-needed work.

More details are available online.
We look forward to keeping you abreast of our progress. I am happy to respond to any questions you may have.

With Best Wishes,

Melanie Takefman
The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI)
Telephone, Office: ++972-2-652-1218, Mobile : ++972-52-8606023
Fax: ++972-2-652-1219

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