The closely watched trial of a Palestinian girl for slapping and punching two Israeli soldiers opened before an Israeli military court in the West Bank on Tuesday, but the judge ordered all proceedings to be held behind closed doors in a case that has drawn wide criticism of Israel for prosecuting the teenager.
(AP) — Ahed Tamimi, 17, appeared fresh and confident as she entered the packed courtroom. She briefly whispered to relatives in the back of the room before the judge ordered everyone except her family out.
“Stay strong! Stay strong!” shouted her father, Bassem Tamimi.
Ahed Tamimi has been incarcerated since she was arrested on Dec. 19, four days after she was filmed confronting the soldiers outside her West Bank home.
Israel has treated her actions as a criminal offense, indicting her on charges of assault and incitement that could potentially lead to years in prison.
But Ahed Tamimi’s supporters see a brave girl who struck two armed soldiers outside her West Bank home in frustration after having just learned that Israeli troops seriously wounded a 15-year-old cousin, shooting him in the head from close range with a rubber bullet during nearby stone-throwing clashes.
The teen with the large curly mane of blond hair, who turned 17 in jail last month, has become the latest symbol of the long-running battle between Palestinians and Israelis over global public opinion.
Israel’s full-throttle prosecution of Tamimi, one of an estimated 300 Palestinian minors in Israeli jails, and a senior Israeli official’s recent revelation that he once had parliament investigate whether the blond, blue-eyed Tamimis are a “real” Palestinian family have helped stoke ongoing interest in the case.
International human rights groups have criticized the aggressive prosecution, and diplomats from the European Union and several European countries, including Germany and the Netherlands, attended Tuesday’s hearing as observers before they were kicked out along with journalists.