Anger at West Bank protester's sentence

The British Foreign Office last night expressed concern over a one-year prison sentence handed down by a military court to Abdallah Abu Rahma, a leader of unarmed anti-occupation protests in the West Bank.

Mr Abu Rahma, 39, was given the jail sentence along with a further six months suspended for three years and a 5000 shekel (£760) fine after being convicted for incitement and organising demonstrations against the separation barrier in the village of Bil'in.

The demonstrations often end in clashes between stone-throwing protesters and youths using tear gas and gunfire.

The Foreign Office said it was concerned that his continued detention was "intended to prevent him and other Palestinians from exercising their legitimate right to non-violent protest against the annexation of Palestinian land to Israel".

The activist has already served 10 months of his sentence on remand and the military judge said during this week's hearing that the military's delay in implementing a High Court decision re-routing the barrier was a mitigating factor.

But the prosecution could appeal the sentence and the suspended sentence will effectively prevent him from taking part in protests for three years.

The conviction was sharply criticised last August by the EU foreign policy chief Baroness Ashton.

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