Israeli court hands prison sentence to Palestinian astrophysicist over Facebook posts

| Ma’an |

JERUSALEM (Ma’an) — An Israeli court at the Ofer detention in the central occupied West Bank on Tuesday sentenced a well-known Palestinian astrophysicist to two months in prison over statements made on social media, the Palestinian Prisoner’s Society (PPS) said.

In a statement, PPS head lawyer Jawad Boulos confirmed that Imad Barghouti, a physics and astronomy professor at Al-Quds University in the occupied East Jerusalem town of Abu Dis, was sentenced over Facebook posts allegedly “inciting against Israeli occupation.”

Boulos said that the court reduced its initial verdict of three months in prison to two months in administrative detention. The contested practice of administrative detention is generally used by Israeli authorities as a means of internment without charges or trial, making the 54-year-old professor’s sentence highly unusual.

The lawyer added that Barghouthi’s defense would appeal the court’s decision.

Academics across the world have signed a petition, which was submitted during Tuesday’s court hearing, protesting Barghouthi’s detention.

Barghouthi, who comes from the village of Beit Rima in the Ramallah district, was detained by Israeli forces in late April at the Nabi Saleh checkpoint in the occupied West Bank.

The scientist had previously been detained in late 2014 as he was trying to cross into Jordan on his way to attend a conference in the United Arab Emirates. His lawyer said at the time that Barghouthi’s detention was due to his stance on the devastating Israeli offensive on the Gaza Strip earlier that year, which killed more than 2,000 Palestinians.

In recent months, Israel has detained scores of Palestinians for social media activity, alleging that a wave of unrest that swept the occupied Palestinian territory last October was encouraged largely by “incitement.”

Most recently, an Israeli court sentenced 22-year-old Palestinian woman Majd Yusif Atwan on Monday to 45 days in prison over charges of incitement on her Facebook account.

Palestinians have instead pointed chiefly to the frustration and despair brought on by Israel’s nearly 50-year military occupation of the Palestinian territory and the absence of a political horizon.

More than 200 Palestinians and almost 30 Israelis have been killed since October, although the number of Palestinian and Israeli deaths saw a dramatic drop over the last two months, with Israeli leadership suggesting its severe security measures were responsible for the emerging trend.

However, the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research found in a poll last month that support for stabbing attacks had seen a decline in the West Bank in recent months — “due, it seems, to a rising perception in its inefficacy.”

According to prisoners’ organization Addameer, 7,000 Palestinians are detained in Israeli custody, 700 of whom are held in administrative detention.