Scales for Justice

Working towards peace and reconciliation

Lina Khattab

On 6 August 2015, several weeks after her release from Israeli prison, S4J met 18-year old Lina Khattab in her home in Ramalla. Over the past months S4J had followed Lina's case closely and sent an appeal to several UN Special procedures on her behalf.

Nevertheless we were still disturbed to listen to her testimony, which went further than the already shocking information received. Not only during her arrest but also on the way to the interrogation center Lina was beaten by the soldiers, she told us, meanwhile soldiers also amused themselves threatening her. "We will kill you", We will explode your head", they said. Lina further told us that for about two days following her arrest she was kep in solitary confinement, in a filthy cell, without blanket and still wearing her torn clothes despite the fact that it was December and the temperatures freezing.  She didn't know if it was day or night, Lina said, as the cell had no windows and she was totally closed off fom the outside world.

Later Lina was kept in a cell with other girls. Every now and then their cell was searched by soldiers, who turned everything upside down and broke their few belongings - especially at times when the girls were peaceful. The worst experience however were the hearings, Lina said. Soldiers would wake them up around 2 a.m. in the morning and lock them up in a cell together with other prisoners awaiting their trial until 6 a.m.. They were then pushed into a military vehicle and remained tied to their iron seats until the bus had collected prisoners from other detention centers. Arriving at Ofer they were awaiting their hearing in a cell, hands and feet shackled. Usually they arrived back in the prison about 11 p.m., totally exhausted. Nevertheless the girls never gave up. In order to stay in form they stemmed water bottles and Lina taught the others to dance.

Such an a positive attitude is impressing for such a young girl. Evil can only be overcome by good, S4J believes, yet injustice must be exposed, as it can only be counterproductive to lasting peace and reconciliation. We will continue to advocate for people like Lina and wish that a just and sustainable solution together with an end of the ongoing occupation will be found as soon as possible. 

Background on Lina's case

Lina Khattab source

Scales for Justice (S4J) sent an urgent appeal to several UN Special Procedures, urging them to take action on the case of 18-year old Lina Khattab, who was arrested by Israeli Forces on 13 December 2014 and continued to be held in HaSharon prison inside Israel.  

Lina is a first-year media student at Bir Zeit University in the occupied Palestinian territories (oPt). An accomplished dancer, she is a member of the El-Funoun Palestinian Popular Dance Troupe and active in Palestinian national and political activities at her university.     

On 13 December 2014 Lina, along with other students, participated in protest organized by Bir Zeit University students in front of Ofer military prison. The protest was met with excessive violence and Lina Khattab, along with her friends, ran away as soon as tear gas and rubber bullets were fired.

He  said he "did not know she was a girl "

Lina was at about 200 – 300 meters from the protests, when Israeli soldiers caught her. One of the soldiers violently beat her and pushed her into a military jeep, alleging that she had thrown stones. The soldier later said “I did not know that she a girl”, yet Lina told her family that he got very angry because she refused to cry so that he asked “Why do you not cry” while he continued to beat her.

Lina did not confess to have participated in the protest and said that she had been running and covered her face because of the excessive amount of teargas in the area. Nevertheless she was detained immediately.

Ever since her arrest on 13 December 2014 Lina Khattab has been held in detention. A first hearing was held on 16 December 2014 at Ofer Military Court, following which Lina was transferred to HaSharon prison inside Israel in a clear violation of 49 and 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which prohibits the transfer of prisoners outside of occupied territory.

As a result Lina's family was denied visits for over a month. Lina Khattab’s father has never been given any permit to visit his daughter. Beginning of May also Lina’s mother was been denied the visit because Lina had allegedly "Raised a Palestinian flag inside her cell on the Israeli Independence Day". 

She will lose her academic year, even if  we prove she is innocent

The first hearing was held on 16 December 2014 and followed by numerous other hearings, during which Lina’s detention was over and over prolonged and all requests of her lawyer Mahmud Hassan to free her on bail or place her under house arrest in order to give her the possibility to pass her exams were rejected. “The fact that Lina participated in a protest shows that the family is not in control,” the judge decided.

The director of Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, Sahar Francis, objected the decision “Legally, we do not understand the position of the court, taking into consideration the fact that this is the first time Lina was arrested. None of our suggestions to guarantee her release were accepted […] which means she will lose her academic year, even if we prove she is innocent”.

The first time Lina’s parents were actually able to see their daughter was during a court appearance at Ofer Court on 12 January 2015. Yet even then they were neither allowed to touch her or talk to her. The Palestinian activist and writer, Mariam Barghouti, who attended the hearing, later wrote:

Lina has faced 5 court hearings so far without being charged. This 18 year old has been away from home for over a month and every time she has court she must go through a rigorous trip from one bus to another. Hidden in these buses are small cells with metal chairs and no light. The trip takes hours and multiple stops at various prisons. Usually beginning at 3 AM until her court date, which was at 5 PM … Lina, is not what she was made to be… she is a girl that dances Palestinian dabka and was in the beginning of her freshmen year at Birzeit University […] Lina’s next court date is on the 18th of January. As her parents wait outside the courtrooms once more, Lina will again take another trip only to be faced with a judge that has already decided she is guilty and is simply attempting to find some sort of rationalization to explain her continued incarceration.

Lina was finally sentenced on 16 February 2015 to six months in prison, three years on probation, and a 6,000 NIS ($1,500 USD) fine for alleged “stone throwing” and “participating in an unlawful demonstration.” 

You are a strong girl, I cannot release you

Students at Bir Zeit University demand to release Lina Khttab

The only evidence used against Lina remain the accounts of three soldiers. This was although during the sentencing hearing it became clear that the commander resonsible for the submission of the report had not been present during the moment of Lina’s arrest. Lina’s lawyer hence raised serious objections regarding the credibility of the accusations.

During the course of the hearing it became further clear that the judge had already made up his mind on the case when he asked Lina Khattab “How do you find the prison?” and Lina Khattab answered “I will continue my dreams”. As Lina Khattab’s father reported the judge then replied “You are a strong girl for your age, you are not like the others. You are one of the leaders. I therefore cannot release you”.

Until this day Lina Khattab strongly rejects the charges against her. There is hence a strong suspicion of a premeditated sentence, aimed at deterring Lina Khattab and youths from participating in protests, as Sahar Francis further stated: “In the last couple of years, it was not so common to arrest women for throwing stones, but we believe this case is part of increasing attacks on peaceful resistance activities.”

Scales for Justice (S4J) considers the sentence against Lina a clear violation of Article 9 of the ICCPR, holding that “no one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention. No one shall be deprived of his liberty except on such grounds and in accordance with such procedure as are established by law.”

A premeditated sentence

Lina’s conviction is based on questionable testimonies from soldiers and the report prepared by the commander was obviously preconcerted. Lina Khattab is hence clearly targeted not for an offense, but to discourage her and others from participation in popular protests. It is further clear that Lina Khattab’s determination not to bow down despite her young age essentially influenced the verdict.  

The treatment of Lina further clearly violates article 7 of the ICCPR, holding that “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” Lina Khattab was not only beaten, tortured and humiliated but also deprived of her family, freedom and education in a clear attempt to break her will.

 S4J called on the UN to urgently remind the Israeli authorities of their obligation under international law to treat prisoners with humanity and fairness and to grant Lina a fair trial in compliance with international law and clear her from vexatious charges and allegations.

On 11 June 2015, after almost 6 months in jail, Lina Khattab was finally released.


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