Interview conducted on 3 December 2014, following Murad Shteiwi’s conviction and sentence by an Israeli military court of 9.5 months imprisonment and 10,000NIS on charges of participating in and organising demonstrations, and a further suspended sentence in case he participates in demonstrations in the future. The interview was conducted through Murad Shtewi’s lawyer, Adel Samara, at Salem Military Court (please also see the joint public statement of LPHR and Addameer for further information on Murad Shteiwi’s conviction and sentence).
Q: What do you think of the charges against you?
A: The charges are inaccurate because they accused me of instigating and starting the demonstrations and yet the demonstrations continue.
Q: Can you explain the importance of the peaceful demonstrations for you and the people of Kufr Qaddum?
A: Peaceful demonstrations are important because:
- Demonstrating is a legitimate right to express the demands and rights of the people of Kufr Qaddum. We have the most simple demand which is to have the freedom of movement.
- The demonstration started to shed light on the struggles of the people of Kufr Qaddum, because of the distances between the village and other occupied cities, and because of the closure of the road.
- The demonstrations also shed light on the need to cancel the security coordination due to it making it difficult for the farmers to access their land.
- The demonstrations highlighted the village in the media, and delivered our message to most of the countries in the world, including Israeli peace organizations.
Q: Can you please describe the conditions of your detention?
A: The conditions are bad as they are for all detainees. They are bad in terms of the food, hygiene, cleaning products/means for hygiene, poor treatment, location they detain us in, and no special consideration for age.
Q: How did you feel after spending seven months in detention?
A: From the standpoint of my morale, I have a very high morale because I feel that I am fighting a case of national, humanitarian resistance. I have not committed any criminal crime. I am in prison for a nationalistic and humanitarian cause so that we can open the street, which is a humanitarian demand for all the residence of Kufr Qaddum. I am happy that I am imprisoned for defending this right [to open the road], and that I am holding the responsibility to realize this right. From the psychological viewpoint, the situation is difficult. I am deeply affected by being isolated from my family, children and job. This is especially since I was supposed to start a new job after being promoted. From the standpoint of health, I have lost approximately nine kilograms in weight from the date of my arrest. How I was treated has affected my current health and weight loss.
Q: Did you suffer from physical or psychological harm during the arrest?
A: No, I did not suffer from direct physical torture.
Q: How do you feel about the repeated and prolonged adjournments to your trial?
A: I have accepted what happened.
Q: Addameer and LPHR recognise you as a human rights defender and say that you should have special protection because your activities upholding the right to protest. Is the definition of ‘human rights defender’ important to you, and how?
A: This is something very important and which I cherish, and I received the support of these organizations especially in light of the suffering I experienced since the demonstrations started.
Q: Do you have a message that you want us to deliver to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders?
A: I urge that he takes action to:
- Open the road.
- Stop expanding the settlements.
- Enable people to reach their lands freely.
Q: Do you have a message to the people of Kufr Qaddum and to the world regarding your arrest and detention?
A: I am honoured to hold this responsibility, and the freedom of movement is a legitimate right guaranteed by all international laws. The peaceful protests are a right as well to demand your rights. I ask the world to increase their solidarity in support of the Palestinian cause to end the occupation, and to shed light on Israeli state terror imposed on children, elderly and women, and the land. I also call on the people of Kufr Qaddum to hold on to their rights and continue to claim them.
Q: What is your opinion of your final sentencing of 9.5 months and a fine of 10,000NIS?
A: The ruling is unjust and oppressive, and reveals the occupation’s true colours, especially with the high monetary fine, which is a fine for the tear gas and the other equipment used to repress the demonstrations.
Q: There is a promise from the Israeli Coordination to open the road, but they then postponed the opening of the road. What is your opinion of this?
A: There should be third state intervention, and ways to hold the occupation accountable, because we will not realize our demands otherwise. The occupier will reject this right, and it is known that the occupation procrastinates the decisions without implementing them. We will continue to hold peaceful demonstrations until the road is opened.