Middle East
Fatah official shuns Israeli court
Abbas Zaki, detained after rally in Bethlehem, refuses to appear before a military judge.
Last Modified: 31 Mar 2010 11:16 GMT
Zaki was arrested at a peaceful protest in Bethlehem on Sunday with 12 other activists [EPA]

Abbas Zaki, a senior member of Fatah, the political party of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, has refused to appear before an Israeli military court.

Zaki, who was arrested at a peaceful rally to mark Palm Sunday in Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank, was supposed to face the court on Wednesday.

Al Jazeera's Nour Odeh, in the occupied West Bank, said: "Abbas Zaki refused to appear in front of the military judge, refused to recognise the legitimacy of the military court in trying a senior Palestinian official for participating in a peaceful march."

Another 12 activists were arrested at Sunday's march, and Zaki also refused to participate in court proceedings without them, Odeh said.

Clashes broke out outside the military court in the West Bank as demonstrators demanded the release of the activists.

Protesters had initially listened to speeches from leaders of the Palestinian Authority and Fatah. Then clashes broke out between the younger demonstrators and Israeli police, who fired tear gas at the protesters in an effort to force them away from the prison.

Politically significant

Palestinians view the detentions as politically significant, especially that of Zaki.

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Zaki is the most senior ranking Fatah official to have been detained by Israel since the signing of the Oslo peace accords between Israel and the Palestinians in 1993.

On Sunday Zaki was participating in a rally against Israeli restrictions on Palestinian Christians.

There have been increasing incidences recently of Israel arresting Palestinian peace activists and deporting foreign activists.

"This, as far as the Palestinian leadership is concerned is an indication of where Israel wants to take things. And the response from the political leadership has been a commitment to step up popular resistance," our correspondent said.

"The message being is Israel is going to ban peaceful marches, what does it consider legitimate opposition to their occupation.

"The circumstances surrounding these arrests and the fact that the Palestinians are increasingly frustrated due to the crackdown on non-violent protest is ... being reflected in the rising political tensions between Israel and the Fatah movement, which is the champion, among Palestinians, of peace negotiations with Israel."

Al Jazeera and agencies
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