Palestinian poet Dareen Tatour was arrested in a nightly police raid on her home in Reineh on October 11, 2015. She spent 3 months in different Israeli prisons and the rest of the year in house detention under strict limitations. She is being tried in the Israeli court in Nazareth for “incitement to violence”, based on a poem she published on Youtube and Facebook. Her case provoked wide protest from the literary community, by Palestinians and Israeli writers and even more on the international level. Many famous and prize winning poets, writers and intellectuals, and the international writers’ organization “Pen”, called for her release and for the dropping of charges against her.
Tatour’s lawyer, Abed Fahoum from Nazareth, was lately joined by lawyers Gaby Lasky and Nery Ramati from Tel Aviv. They filed a request to reconsider the decision to hold Tatour under house detention until the end of the trial. The request relies mainly on the long time that already passed and on the expected long time until the trial will finish. It also states that the prosecution, which finished resting its case on September 6, failed to bring substantial evidence.
After some legal struggle just to get the hearing going, it was set for Monday, October 31, 2016. I was reporting from the court on Tweeter (hashtag #DareenTatour) and Facebook (on the “Free Dareen Tatour” page) and here is the full report…
The case was not assigned to any specific judge and as we came in the morning it seems that judges do not want to handle it. The file was passed from one judge to the other like a hot potato.
In the end we started one and a half hour late with Judge Lily Yung-Gefer that only received the file a short time before. She is a senior judge in the magistrate court, and by her age she probably doesn’t wait for promotion, so she can be more independent. But she spent much of her career working for the prosecution in Nazareth and it seems from her behavior that she still feels like doing it – she hardly let lawyer Lasky utter one full sentence throughout the hearing.
As we went in she looked at Tatour and seemed to know her. She asked whether Tatour is this woman from the knifing incident that didn’t materialize… Lasky answered: No, she wrote a poem. It didn’t seem to make much of a difference.
The judge tried hard to press for a compromise that will let Tatour to go out for 2 hours each day – instead of the 3 days a week currently – but still accompanied by a “supervisor”. She even raised the idea that Tatour may get 4 hours for 3 days a week, saying that being closed in the house for such a long period is really suffocating.
Basically Tatour was not interested in such a compromise as she wants to go back to work and study. Besides, there is no much fresh air to take for a 34 years old woman when you must always drag one of your parents or brothers with you for every step you go.
The defense presented some decisions from the military court in Ofer, which decided to release Palestinians detainees while on trial for incitement. On the other hand lawyer Hardak for the prosecution said she have plenty of cases of Palestinians that are held in detention, many of them in prison and not house detention, while on trial for charges similar to Tatour’s.
When Lasky tried to say that the security situation in Israel today is less tense than it was when Tatour was first arrested on October 2015, the judge interrupted her again in the middle of the sentence. When we discussed the trial later some of the people that were present in the court were ready to swear that they heard the lawyer for the prosecution saying that we can gladly say that the security situation is not any better. Checking in the protocol we found that she was cited as saying that we can’t gladly say that the situation improved…
We almost lost any hope before the judge came with the proposal to ask for a new report from a probation officer. She said she knows any decision in this case will be appealed, and the district court will ask for a report anyway, so better to have it now. Lasky agreed. Hardak, in a show of obstinacy that is not usual in the courts but typical to the prosecution’s behavior in this case, objected even to having an expert opinion.
The next hearing was set to Monday, November 14, 10 am, on the hope that the report from the probation officer will be ready. It left us some slim hope that Tatour will be freed before the next hearing of the main trial and will be able to wage the struggle to prove her innocence without the constant pressure of a prolonged detention.
Meanwhile we learned that in the next hearing of the main trial, in November 17, the court will hear again the defense request to oblige the prosecution to release information concerning the claim of discriminative enforcement. At this hearing, also, poet Dareen Tatour should stand before the court and testify for the first time, more than 13 months after her detention, to explain that her poem is a legitimate protest against the crimes of the occupation.