A Palestinian villager who is on trial for organizing popular protests in the West Bank told a court on Sunday that the charges against him were "fiction."
Bassem Tamimi was arrested on 24 March last year and accused of organizing illegal demonstrations and incitement to stone-throwing in connection with a series of weekly protests in Nabi Saleh against the takeover of village lands by Jewish settlers.
On Sunday, Tamimi, whose arrest has sparked international condemnation, took the stand for the first time since his arrest, telling Ofer military court that his arrest was a bid to stamp out peaceful popular protest against the occupation.
"This indictment has absolutely no basis in reality and I have nothing to do with the charges against me," said Tamimi, who was last year recognized by the European Union as a human rights defender.
On the night he was arrested, his interrogators said they would show him pictures incriminating him, but they never did.
The weekly protests in Nabi Saleh began at the end of 2009, following a years-long legal battle with residents of the nearby settlement of Halamish who in 2001 seized around 240 acres of the villagers' land, he told the court.
Although an Israeli court ruled in their favor, the settlers continued to prevent the villagers from accessing their land and also took control of a nearby spring.
One Friday in late 2009, the villagers began walking with the farmers towards their land to help them cultivate it, but were prevented from getting there by both settlers and the army, Tamimi said.
The Israeli military claims the demonstrations are illegal, but Tamimi said the right to peaceful protest is enshrined in international law.