A 14-year-old Palestinian schoolgirl jailed by Israel for allegedly throwing stones has been freed after her case sparked international outrage.
Malak al-Khatib was arrested by the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) as she walked home from school on 31 December in the village of Beitin, near Ramallah.
She became a symbol of the hundreds of imprisoned children from the West Bank and her sentence unleashed a wave of protests by Palestinians and supporters.
After more than six weeks in prison, Malak was released on Friday, her family told Ma’an news agency. Pictures showed her family greeting her in emotional scenes at the Jubara checkpoint in the West Bank.
Malak had been sentenced to two months in jail after being convicted of “attempting to throw objects at a transportation route, possessing a knife and throwing objects at a person or at property”, Haaretz reported.
Israeli prosecutors claimed she intended to stab soldiers with the knife but her family deny all the charges. In addition to the prison term, she was fined 6,000 shekels (£1,000).
“My heart broke when I saw her in court, cuffed and shackled,” her mother, Khawla al-Khatib, recently told AFP from her home.
“I brought in a coat for her to wear because it was cold, but the judge refused to let her have it.”
Palestinian authorities claimed Malak was handcuffed and blindfolded upon arrest, interrogated without a family member or lawyer present and detained for three weeks before her trial.
An Israeli military spokesperson told AFP that the girl was convicted after a plea bargain over an alleged incident on the Route 60 motorway, which is used by both Israeli settlers and Palestinians.
An indictment served at a military court said Malak had “picked up a stone” to throw at cars.
“Rock-throwing is an extremely dangerous crime, which has maimed and killed Israeli civilians in the past,” the spokesperson added.
Malak’s imprisonment ignited anger about the detention of children by Israeli security forces.
A letter from the Palestinian government to the UN in January said around 300 Palestinian children are currently being held in Israeli jails and a total of at least 1,266 were detained in the West Bank and East Jerusalem during 2014.
The majority were between the ages of 12 and 15 but some were much younger, the letter said.
“The occupying forces continue to harass and attack Palestinian children in violent raids on towns, villages and refugee camps, at checkpoints and in peaceful demonstrations and continue to carry out pre-dawn raids on the homes of families, seizing children in the dead of night, intensifying the trauma for both child and parents,” it continued.
“It is also a routine practice of Israel to detain Palestinian children for extended periods of time without access to parents or lawyers and to subject children to forced interrogations, leading to confessions made under duress, and to beatings, solitary confinement and other forms of psychological and physical torture, as well as to military court trials.”
The vast majority of arrested children are boys, drawing Malak’s case to public attention.
In pictures: The children of Gaza
In pictures: The children of Gaza
1/19 Children of Gaza
A Palestinian boy writes on a shrapnel riddled backboard at the heavily damaged Sobhi Abu Karsh school in Gaza City's al-Shejaea neighborhood as a 72-hour humanitarian truce went into effect in the Gaza Strip after a month of fighting between Hamas and Israeli forces.
2/19 Children of Gaza
A Palestinian girl carries a toy she retrieved from their home, after the ground invasion of the Israeli army to the city of Rafah, during the granted 72 hours humanitarian truce mediated by Egyptian between the Palestinian and Israeli sides to stop the war.
3/19 Children of Gaza
A Palestinian child screams in pain at the Kamal Adwan hospital in Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza Strip after she was hit by shrapnel during an Israeli military strike near her family house
4/19 Children of Gaza
A Palestinian youth sits on the rubble of a destroyed building in part of Gaza City's al-Tufah neighbourhood.
5/19 Children of Gaza
Palestinian relatives of Islamic Jihad militant Shaaban Al-Dahdouh, who was found under the rubble yesterday, cry during his funeral in Gaza City.
6/19 Children of Gaza
Palestinians salvage items from the rubble of destroyed buildings in part of Gaza City's al-Tufah neighbourhood as the fragile ceasefire in the Gaza Strip entered a second day.
7/19 Children of Gaza
A Palestinian child goes through toys at a vendor's stall in a market in Gaza City, northern Gaza Strip. A cease-fire between Israel and Hamas that ended a month of fighting is holding for a second day, ahead of negotiations in Cairo on a long-term truce and a broader deal for the war-ravaged Gaza Strip.
8/19 Children of Gaza
A Palestinian youth looks out at the destruction in part of Gaza City's al-Tufah neighbourhood as the fragile ceasefire in the Gaza Strip entered a second day, while Israeli and Palestinian delegations prepared for crunch talks in Cairo to try to extend the 72-hour truce.
9/19 Children of Gaza
A child injured during Israel's attack spends Eid al-Fitr at Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza city.
10/19 Children of Gaza
A Palestinian boy plays inside a shrapnel riddled car in Gaza City's al-Shejaea neighborhood, as a 72-hour humanitarian truce went into effect in the Gaza Strip after a month of fighting between Hamas and Israeli forces. AFP/Getty Images
11/19 Children of Gaza
Palestinian children, wounded in an Israeli strike on a compound housing a U.N. school in Beit Hanoun, in the northern Gaza Strip, cry as they lay on the floor at the emergency room of the Kamal Adwan hospital in Beit Lahiya
12/19 Children of Gaza
Children play on the beach of Gaza City during a fragile 72 hour truce, as Israel pulled its last soldiers out of the Gaza Strip on 05 August after four weeks of fighting.
13/19 Children of Gaza
Palestinian families leave their neighborhood to a safer location as Israel's army continues shelling the area of Khan Yunis, in the southern Gaza Strip.
14/19 Children of Gaza
A Palestinian youth carries items salvaged from the rubble past destroyed buildings in part of Gaza City's al-Tufah neighbourhood as the fragile ceasefire in the Gaza Strip entered a second day.
15/19 Children of Gaza
Palestinian boys play football at the beach of Gaza City. Israel pulled its last soldiers out of the Gaza Strip after four weeks of fighting, as a 72-hour truce took effect.
16/19 Children of Gaza
A Palestinian girl poses while playing during the first day of Eid al-Fitr in a United Nations school. Muslims usually start the day by visiting cemeteries, to pay their respects to the dead, and then exchange family visits
17/19 Children of Gaza
Palestinian children leave their neighborhood to a safer location as Israel's army continues shelling the area of Khan Yunis, in the southern Gaza Strip
18/19 Children of Gaza
Palestinian children fill plastic bottles and water containers with drinking water from a public tap in Jabalia in the northern Gaza Strip.
19/19 Children of Gaza
Two Palestinian youths, neighbors of the Al-Bakri family, at the Al-Shatea refugee camp in the west of Gaza City. Asel Al Bakri, an eight year old child has been killed and a number of people have been injured in an Israeli airstrike on the house in western Gaza City's Shati.
In a report released in February 2013, Unicef criticized Israel for its treatment of arrested Palestinian children, saying their interrogation combines “intimidation, threats and physical violence, with the clear purpose of forcing the child to confess.”
“Children have been threatened with death, physical violence, solitary confinement and sexual assault, against themselves or a family member,” it claimed.
The Israeli embassy has not responded to The Independent’s request for a comment.Reuse content