Ahed Tamimi: Who is Palestinian teenage protester and why is she being detained?

The 17-year-old has become a resistance symbol since her arrest for slapping two Israeli soldiers in December. After another delay in her trial, international outcry at her detention is growing 

Tuesday 13 February 2018 22:38 GMT
Palestinian teenager Ahed Tamimi slaps Israeli solider

There has been international outcry at a further delay in the military trial of Palestinian teenager Ahed Tamimi, who was arrested in December for kicking and slapping two Israeli soldiers.

The 17-year-old arrived at court on Tuesday appearing calm, smiling and flashing the 'V for victory' sign at photographers.

However, all observers were soon kicked out of the courtroom after the judge ordered a closed hearing, and proceedings have been pushed back to next month.

She remains in custody at Ofer prison near Ramallah.

Who is she?

Ms Tamimi is from the West Bank town of Nabi Saleh, where more than 600 members of her extended family live.

Since 2009, residents there have staged regular anti-occupation protests against a nearby Israeli settlement that often end in stone-throwing, rubber bullets and tear gas.

The teenager has taken part in the marches and demonstrations since she was young. Her curly blonde hair and blue eyes - which led an Israeli minister to question whether she is actually Palestinian - have appeared in several highly publicised photos over the years. In one, taken when she was 12, she is raising a clenched fist at a soldier who towers over her.

Why was she arrested?

Ms Tamimi was apprehended on 19 December after social media footage emerged of her slapping and kicking Israeli troops in a confrontation near her home a few days earlier.

She was reportedly upset after learning that her 15-year-old cousin had been seriously injured after being shot in the head by a rubber bullet during stone-throwing clashes nearby.

Israeli authorities picked her up on 12 separate charges of aggravated assault and incitement, which could potentially be punishable by 10 years in prison.

Why is her case causing such a fuss?

Mainly because she’s a minor: Ms Tamimi was 16 when she was arrested and has turned 17 in detention.

Rights groups such as Amnesty International have pointed out that under the UN’s Convention on the Rights of the Child, of which Israel is a state party, the “arrest, detention or imprisonment of a child must be used only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time”.

Like many Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, Ms Tamimi also faces a military trial - which convict nearly 100 per cent of alleged Palestinian offenders.

For Palestinians, Ms Tamimi has become a ‘David and Goliath’ style figure challenging the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land, a representative of the estimated 300 Palestinian children held in Israeli jails.

Critics have pointed out that the child has courted attention and been used by her family for anti-Israeli publicity purposes since a young age.

What will happen to her?

The start of the trial has now been delayed three times. The new hearing date is March 11, and the process is expected to last for several months.

On Tuesday Lieutenant Colonel Menachem Lieberman ordered the trial take place as a closed hearing, ejecting journalists, human rights researchers and observing western diplomats.

The decision was met with fresh outrage from Ms Tamimi’s supporters.

“The court decided what is best for the court, and not what is good for Ahed,” said the girl's Israeli lawyer, Gaby Lasky.

“The way to keep it out of everybody's eyes is to close doors and not allow people inside the court for the hearing.”

While it is unlikely Ms Tamimi will face a full 10 years in prison, Amnesty International says the aggressive prosecution is intended as a “desperate attempt to intimidate Palestinian children who dare to stand up to repression by occupying forces.”

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