Over the course of several months, the Israeli occupation authorities have arrested 13 Palestinian youths in occupied Jerusalem on charges of belonging to a political organisation that is prohibited under Israeli law called “Al-Aqsa Youth Organisation”. Earlier this month, Israeli police filed indictments against five of them.
According to defence lawyers, the arrests took place over three months, and the detainees are being interrogated on charges related to their presence, activity and interest in news relating to Al-Aqsa Mosque.
While charges were filed against Mahmoud Abdellatif, Thaer Abu Sbeih, Ayoub Zalloum, Muhammad Al-Bakri and Imad Abu Sneineh, the others are still under investigation and are waiting for clear and precise indictments against them.
In the indictments filed to date, the main charge is the one related to being a member of a prohibited political organisation, Al-Aqsa Youth. In August 2011, former Minister of Defence Ehud Barak issued a decision declaring this organisation a terrorist group which is illegal.
According to the indictments, the Israeli prosecution claims that this is an “organisation” whose members regularly visit Al-Aqsa Mosque, organise activities related to it, and that they planned to confront settlers who storm the mosque, and that these members were responsible for organising religious retreats inside the southern mosque during settlers’ incursions in the Jewish holidays.
The indictments include a description of normal activities that the occupation’s police accuse the prisoners of being responsible for organising and participating in inside the mosque.
The charges also refer to their participation in a group on WhatsApp, in which they exchange information about the settlers’ incursions into the mosque, as the Israeli occupation police claims.
In an effort to exaggerate these activities, the group has been linked martyr Mesbah Abu Sbeih claiming he was one of its founders. He was the one who carried out a shootout that killed two Israeli soldiers in October 2016.
Presence at Al-Aqsa
In an interview with lawyer Hamza Qutaina, one of the four lawyers responsible for following up the case of the young detainees, he said that this charge is not new in Israeli courts and that for the last six years the Israeli prosecution has charged a number of Palestinian youths in Jerusalem with the same charge. He believes it is an attempt by the occupation authorities to criminalise Muslim presence in Al-Aqsa.
He referred to harsh interrogation procedures the young men held in prison are subjected to in Jerusalem, including solitary confinement, prolonged sleep deprivation, long hours of interrogation, and the lack of adequate sanitary products for the prisoners.
Lawyer Khaled Zbarqa, who has previously defended a number of Palestinian who have received the same charges, said in his interview with Al Jazeera Net that the Israeli police are dealing a blow to the Islamic presence in the mosque.
Zabarqa warned that the Israeli occupation may expand the arrests and that it may use this political organisation to prosecute any young man who enters Al-Aqsa Mosque on a regular basis.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.