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Palestinian youth jailed by Israel for Facebook statuses released

Oct. 21, 2013 5:47 P.M. (Updated: Nov. 13, 2013 12:54 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Razi al-Nabulsi, 23, a Palestinian political activist who lives in Haifa, was released Wednesday after a week-long detention as a result of Facebook posts Israeli authorities argued constituted "incitement."

Following his detention, Israeli authorities kept al-Nabulsi, an Israeli citizen, under house arrest for five days and forbade him from using either his cell phone or computer during that time.

Israeli authorities also refused to disclose which Facebook posts had led to the charges. Because the case is considered a "security" case, al-Nabulsi's lawyers was forced to defend the detainee from charges for which the evidence was kept secret.

Lawyer Aram Mahameed says that al-Nabulsi was detained for three charges. These include "supporting terrorist groups, incitement to terrorism and violence, and encouraging and calling for a third intifada that threatens the Israeli state."

Mahameed is affiliated with Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel. Lawyers from Adalah were brought on the case to defend al-Nabulsi following his initial detention.

Mahameed explained that the charges stem from "a number of comments on al-Nabulsi's Facebook page concerning issues like normalization (with the State of Israel), as well as the Prawer Plan," a proposed Israeli plan that if carried out with displace 40,000 Bedouins from the southern Negev.

The comments on Facebook were originally written in Arabic, but the court translated the texts into Hebrew for the court's review. Mahameed argued that the translations were most likely not exact or were biased in order to make the statements seem more inflammatory than they were.

"The case is not as Israel describes," Mahameed stressed.

Like other political activists, al-Nabulsi often posts about his political opinions on major issues related to the Palestinian cause and his situation as a Palestinian in Israel on his Facebook page.

On Oct. 9, however, he received a knock at the door from the Israeli police as a result of his statuses. He was detained for a week for what the Israeli police have described as "incitement" and "threats" against the "security of the state of Israel."

Over the course of his week in prison, the central court repeatedly extended the period of his detention, citing that he was a "potential danger." His lawyer stressed that this is a common tactic used by the Israeli judiciary to lengthen detention periods for Palestinians, and as result Mahameed appealed multiple times until al-Nabulsi was finally released on Oct. 16.

The ordeal did not end there. In addition to the confiscation of al-Nabulsi's belongings for investigation, he was put under house arrest for five days, and was not allowed to use his computer or cell phone during that time.

Mahameed argued that the situation was far from how the Israeli authorities described it, pointing out the strangeness of a case where public Facebook posts are withheld as secret evidence by the authorities.

"Israel claims that it is a state that believes in democracy, and yet al-Nabulsi was detained merely for expressing his point of view," he added.

According to Mahameed, Israeli police secretly opened the investigation into al-Nabulsi on July 10, tracking his activities online and investigating his social networks. In the months since, Shin Bet security services interrogated al-Nabulsi on a number of occasions.

The Shin Bet subsequently drew up a list of charges and in early October detained him, confiscating his personal computer and cell phone.

Israeli blogger Free Haifa was able to interview al-Nabulsi at his home regarding the case in the days since his release. al-Nabulsi gave examples of the statuses he was interrogated about to Free Haifa, some of which were personal while others were political.

One example was a status in which al-Nabulsi had written, "One day the nightmare will be over." According to al-Nabulsi's statements in the interview with Free Haifa, the Israeli police interrogator claimed based on these words that al-Nabulsi clearly wrote it to express his wish that the state of Israel would cease to exist.

Reporters Without Borders ranked Israel 112th in the world for press freedom in its 2013 report, arguing that while Israeli journalists enjoy freedom of expression, there are major structural barriers related to military control and security issues that prevent a free press more generally.

Some 700,000 Palestinians were expelled from their homes inside Israel during the 1948 conflict that led to the creation of the State of Israel. Palestinians who managed to remain in their homes and their descendants today make up around 20 percent of Israel's population.

According to Adalah, Palestinian citizens of Israel are subject to around 20 discriminatory laws that restrict their freedoms as non-Jews.
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