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Arab MK goes on trial for solidarity with the Palestinians

An Arab Member of the Knesset (MK) is on trial for showing solidarity with the people of Korba Bil'in village in the occupied West Bank. Mohammed Baraka MK backed the villagers and their supporters who organise weekly marches against the "separation barrier" which has seen large chunks of land belonging to the village effectively annexed by Israel. The trial is the first of a Knesset member for participation in such demonstrations and political activities.

It is expected that dozens of witnesses from the Israeli army and police will be called by the prosecutor to testify against the MK. The charges against him are: preventing the arrest of a Palestinian youth during one of the demonstrations in the village of Bil'in in May 2005; an alleged assault against a member of an extreme right-wing group who came to attack the participants of a demonstration against Israel's war on Lebanon in July 2006. The trial is expected to last for three days.

Lawyer Orna Cohen, from Adala Human Rights Centre, is defending Mr. Baraka. She said that the defence team will prove to the court that her client is not the one who violated the law in Bil'in, but that it was the security agents who used violence without any justification against the participants in the peaceful demonstration. During this incident, she will allege, elements of the undercover "Mtsadah" unit threw stones and created a clash with soldiers, giving them a pretext to fire tear gas, rubber bullets and sound bombs; a number of demonstrators were arrested on the same day. The defence team will seek to prove that the prosecution allegations against Baraka are groundless and have no legal basis.

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