EU criticism of Israeli justice rankles


JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel’s Foreign Ministry has slammed the European Union’s foreign policy chief for criticizing an Israeli court’s conviction of a Palestinian protest leader.

Abdallah Abu Rahmeh, an organizer of the weekly Friday protests at Bil’in of the West Bank security fence, was convicted Tuesday in an Israeli military court of inciting protesters to attack Israeli soldiers and for holding protests without a permit. He will be sentenced next month. The 39-year-old schoolteacher has been jailed since December.

EU representatives attended every day of the trial, and the body’s foriegn policy chief, Catherine Ashton, released a statement Wednesday expressing concern at the conviction, saying, "The possible imprisonment of Mr. Abu Rahmeh is intended to prevent him and other Palestinians from exercising their legitimate right to protest against the existence of the separation barriers in a non-violent manner."

"The EU considers the route of the barrier where it is built on Palestinian land to be illegal," it quoted her as saying in a statement.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said Ashton "should respect the ruling of the Israeli justice system, and refrain from casting aspersions on a legal system that is lauded worldwide by its peers,” the Jerusalem Post reported. 

“In Israel, where even those who openly support Hamas and Hezbollah enjoy freedom of speech, such accusations sound particularly hollow. Moreover, interfering with a transparent legal procedure of a democratic country is not just highly improper, but is hardly consistent with promoting European values," Palmor said.

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