Date: 27 April 2002
On Wednesday, 24 April 2002, a Palestinian military court sentenced four members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) to various periods of imprisonment, after having convicted them of killing, or participating in the killing of the Israeli Tourism Minister Rehavam Ze’evi on 17 October 2001. The Abu ‘Ali Mustafa Brigades, the military wing of the PFLP, claimed responsibility for the killing of Ze’evi in retaliation for the assassination of its Secretary General Abu ‘Ali Mustafa by Israeli combat helicopters on 27 August 2001.
The trial was held in the compound of the Palestinian President in Ramallah, which has been besieged by Israeli tanks. Judges and lawyers were chosen from those besieged in the compound. The sentences were issued after short proceedings and were as follows:
1. Hamdi Qar’an, convicted of firing at Ze’evi, sentenced to 18 years in prison;
2. Bassel al-Asmar, convicted of assisting in the killing, sentenced to 12 years in prison;
3. Majdi al-Rimawi, convicted of planning the killing, sentenced to 8 years in prison; and
4. ‘Aahed Abu Ghalma, head of the military wing of the PFLP in the West Bank, sentenced to one year in prison.
The Palestinian National Authority (PNA) had already arrested the four young men and detained them in the compound of the Palestinian President in Ramallah. It also arrested the Secretary General of the PFLP Ahmed Sa’adat and other activists of the PFLP after a campaign of pressure exerted by the US and Israeli governments on the PNA, seeking to consider the Palestinian legitimate resistance to the Israeli occupation as a form of terrorism that must be combated and uprooted.
PCHR expresses its grave disappointment at the trial of the four young men before such a military court. PCHR has consistently expressed its concerns regarding the military courts and their failure to reach even the minimum international standards for a fair trial. In addition, such a trial may have negative impacts on the legitimacy of the Palestinian resistance, resistance movements and the Palestine Liberation Organization, which may lead to considering Palestinian resistance as a form of terrorism. Israel and the United States make efforts to achieve this goal in an attempt to legitimize human rights violations, including war crimes, perpetrated by the Israeli belligerent occupation forces against the Palestinian people, neglecting all international instruments and standards that give peoples under occupation the right to resist the occupation and protect them from practices of the belligerent occupation.