JERUSALEM — Ahed Tamimi, the 17-year-old who became a Palestinian cause celebre after a video of her slapping an Israeli soldier went viral, was sentenced to eight months in jail on Wednesday after agreeing to a plea bargain.
The prosecution dropped eight of the 12 charges against Tamimi, including separate accusations of stone throwing. She pleaded guilty to four charges, including assault of a soldier, reduced from an earlier charge of aggravated assault.
Tamimi, already a prominent Palestinian child activist dubbed “Shirley Temper” by some Israeli media outlets, was catapulted to even greater fame by the video and her subsequent arrest. Jewish American comedian Sarah Silverman, actor Danny Glover and National Football League player Michael Bennett are among those who called for her release.
After the plea bargain was presented to the judge, Tamimi addressed the court.
“There is no justice under the occupation,” she said, according to a news release from the campaign organized to free her.
The judge of the military court earlier decided to close the proceedings to the news media and other observers amid predictions that Tamimi’s trial would raise her profile further and draw heightened attention to the detention of minors in Israel. He argued that holding the trial in secret would be in the best interests of the teenager, though her family and lawyer said it was not.
“After the court decided to keep the trial behind closed doors, we understood she wasn’t going to receive a fair trial,” Lasky said.
The prosecution had listed 41 potential witnesses, meaning that Tamimi would have to stay in prison during a lengthy trial that probably would have stretched longer than the sentence agreed to in the plea bargain, Lasky said. She described the deal as the “best decision” available.
Tamimi’s mother, Nariman Tamimi, who faced charges related to filming the incident, also took a plea deal for eight months in jail. Tamimi’s cousin Nour Tamimi, who also appeared in the video, agreed to a plea deal for time served — just more than two weeks.
Lasky said that Israeli authorities were keen to make an example of Ahed Tamimi, whose family spearheads regular protests against Israeli occupation in their West Bank village of Nabi Saleh. “They want to deter other Palestinian youth from resisting occupation,” Lasky said.
The video of the Palestinian teen slapping and kicking the soldiers, who refused to react, caused a public outcry after it was screened on Israeli television. She was arrested shortly after the incident in a night raid on her home. The Israeli military filmed her being led out of her home in handcuffs.
Israel overhauled its military court system in 2009, creating separate military courts for minors that officials said were aimed at improving the protection of children.
However, a report by Israeli human rights group B’Tselem released on Tuesday, said the changes are largely cosmetic. In nearly all cases brought against Palestinian minors, the defendant ends up signing a plea bargain, said Yael Stein, research director for B’Tselem who wrote the report. It can take up to a year and a half from the time a minor is charged to the end of a trial, according to Stein. Most minors are held in jail, ramping up pressure on them to agree to a plea deal, she said.
“For the minor, they are in detention. They think, if I confess I’ll get a lighter sentence. There are real incentives for the minors to sign,” she said. “Usually parents prefer plea bargains so they know their children are coming home.”
There are 356 Palestinian minors in detention, according to the group.