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Palestinian Writer Convicted Over Poems Sentenced To Five Months In Prison

After over two years of house arrest, Palestinian poet and Israeli citizen Dareen Tatour has finally learned what her future holds.

On Tuesday, July 31 the Nazareth District Court sentenced Tatour, who in 2015 drew wide support from writers and advocates of free speech, to five months in prison, Haaretz reports. The sentencing follows Tatour’s May conviction for incitement of violence and supporting terrorist organizations, charges that derived from October, 2015 YouTube and Facebook posts.

The first of the posts, that from YouTube, is of Tatour reading her poem, “Resist, My People, Resist Them” over video of violent encounters between Palestinians and Israeli security forces. Tatour followed the video with a Facebook post captioned with a message urging “the continuation of the intifada” and a photo, also posted to Facebook, expressing solidarity with Isra’a Abed, an Arab-Israeli woman wounded by the Israeli police who falsely believed she was carrying a knife.

Tatour’s sentencing hearing, originally scheduled for October of 2017, had been postponed, effectively extending her sentence. After being held in jail for three months subsequent to her arrest in 2015, Tatour was subject to house arrest until her court date. The full indictment of Tatour cited two additional poems including one that read in part, “Allah Akbar and Baruch Hashem, Islamic Jihad declared intifada throughout the whole West Bank and expansion to all Palestine. We should begin inside the Green Line,” Haaretz reports.

During her trial, Tatour at first denied a connection to the Facebook posts, but later claimed, after switching lawyers in November 2016, that they were mistranslated by the police officer presenting them.

“I expected prison and that’s what happened. I didn’t expect justice. The prosecution was political to begin with because I’m Palestinian, because it’s about free speech and I’m imprisoned because I’m Palestinian,” Tatour said after her sentencing, according to Haaretz.

The prosecution argued that Tatour had a habit of denying her actions, only to walk them back later and shift the blame. An individual “confident of the justice of his path and purity of his intentions consistently admits to publishing the things attributed to him, and explains the underlying intentions. This is not how the defendant behaved,” it wrote in its conclusions.

In July of 2016, over 150 prominent writers, including Dave Eggers, Claudia Rankine and Alice Walker rallied for Tatour’s charges to be dismissed in a letter organized by Jewish Voice for Peace and Adalah-NY. PEN America was also active in championing her cause.

“The sentencing by an Israeli court of Palestinian poet Dareen Tatour to a five month jail sentence for incitement is an unjust criminalization of free expression,” PEN America wrote a statement on the day of sentencing. “The digital policing of Palestinian voices is rampant in Israel, and Tatour is one of some 400 Palestinians who have been arrested for posts on social media since October 2015.”

PJ Grisar is the Forward’s culture intern. He can be reached at [email protected]

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