Bethlehem, occupied West Bank – The trials of a prominent Palestinian teen activist and her mother have begun behind closed doors after an Israeli military judge banned media from entering the court.
Ahed Tamimi, 17, was arrested in December after a video of her slapping and hitting two Israeli officials outside of her house in the village of Nabi Saleh went viral. Her mother, Nariman, was arrested soon after.
Court proceedings began on Tuesday at Israel’s Ofer detention centre, with only family members allowed into the hearing after the judge barred reporters despite a request for a public trial by Gaby Lasky, the lawyer of the Tamimis.
“The court decided to close the doors because they think that it’s not good for Ahed. But what I think is that the court doesn’t think it’s good for the court,” Lasky told reporters.
The hearing was the first court session since the judge ruled last month to keep the mother and daughter in Israeli custody for the duration of their trials.
Ahed’s hearing lasted for two hours and her next court session is scheduled on March 11. She is tried separately from her mother, whose next hearing is set on March 6.
The teen, who turned 17 while in detention, is facing 12 charges, including alleged assault and “incitement”, and could spend up to 10 years in prison if found guilty.
The viral video was filmed shortly after Ahed was informed that her 15-year-old cousin had been severely wounded by Israeli forces who had shot him in the face with a rubber-coated steel bullet.
Amit Gilutz, spokesperson for Israeli rights group B’Tselem, said all of the practices being used against Ahed and Nariman “are completely routine” for Palestinians in the occupied West Bank.
“The military courts themselves are one of the most injurious mechanisms of the occupation and are not designed to seek justice or truth, but to maintain the occupation,” Gilutz told Al Jazeera.
Both Ahed and her mother have been held in Israel’s HaSharon prison for almost two months.
Ahed has since become an icon for the 330 Palestinian children currently held in Israel’s prisons, and rights groups have demanded her immediate release.
“As an unarmed girl, Ahed posed no threat during the altercation with the two Israeli soldiers who were heavily armed and wearing protective clothing,” Magdalena Mughrabi, deputy director for Amnesty International’s Middle East and Africa programme, said in a statement on Monday.
Mughrabi said Ahed had not done anything that could justify her continued detention and “the long, aggressive interrogation sessions she has been forced to endure”.
“Yet again, the Israeli authorities have responded to acts of defiance by a Palestinian child with measures that are entirely disproportionate to the incident in question,” she added.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) also condemned the teen’s detention.
Tamimi’s trial “is both a violation of international law and unnecessary”, Bill Van Esveld, an HRW senior researcher, said in a statement on Monday.
“Her case raises concerns that Israel’s military justice system, which detains hundreds of Palestinian children every year, is incapable of respecting children’s rights.”
Since Ahed’s arrest, Israeli forces have continued a crackdown on Nabi Saleh residents, according to Manal Tamimi, a relative of the teen and her mother.
Manal’s two sons have been held in Israeli custody since being arrested by Israeli forces last month.
Since Ahed’s arrest, at least nine other members of the Tamimi family have been arrested, five of whom remain in Israeli custody. Most were detained during overnight Israeli army raids.
Amid this environment, Manal said that Nabi Saleh residents initiated training and drill sessions for the community’s children and young adults to prepare them for potential arrests and interrogations by Israeli forces.
During the training, children were blindfolded and their hands bound behind their backs – a typical scene during overnight Israeli raids in the occupied West Bank.
Manal told Al Jazeera the drills were necessary to “prepare our children for Israeli detention tactics and to make sure they understand their rights”.
The village has also faced rising threats from settlers residing in Israel’s illegal Halamish settlement, located adjacent to the home of the Tamimi family.
Earlier this month, locals said Israeli settlers had snuck into Nabi Saleh in the middle of the night and sprayed graffiti around the village, including slogans such as “Death to Ahed Tamimi” and “There’s no place in this world for Ahed Tamimi”.