A Palestinian teenager who gained international attention after a video showed her slapping and kicking an Israeli soldier has agreed to plead guilty to assault charges and will serve eight months in prison.
Ahed Tamimi, 17, became a symbol of Palestinian defiance to military occupation after she confronted Israeli soldiers outside her home in the Israeli-occupied West Bank on Dec. 15. Video of the incident went viral after Tamimi’s mother shared it on Facebook.
But many Israelis consider her a provocateur, similar to members of her family who have protested against Israeli policies for years.
Tamimi, who was 16 at the time, was later arrested and indicted on 12 charges, including assault of an Israeli soldier, and charges related to other incidents going back to 2016, when she allegedly threw rocks, threatened and assaulted Israeli forces.
Both Tamimi and her mother, Nariman Tamimi, have been held in jail for three months, and they will serve an additional five months as part of plea agreements, NPR’s Daniel Estrin reports.
Eight of the 12 charges against Ahed Tamimi were dropped. She pleaded guilty to four charges: assaulting an Israeli soldier and an officer, disrupting a soldier and incitement, Israel’s military said.
Nariman Tamimi “was also charged with incitement on social media and assault, while her cousin Nur, who participated in the incident, was charged with assault,” the BBC reports. They both accepted plea deals. Nariman Tamimi was sentenced to eight months and a fine equivalent to about $1,725, while Nur Tamimi was sentenced to time served of 16 days and a fine of about $575, Haaretz reports.
Ahed Tamimi, though a teen, will also pay a fine equivalent to about $1,400, her lawyer Gaby Lasky said Wednesday, according to The Associated Press.
Her father Bassem Tamimi told the AP that the family agreed to a plea deal because prosecutors had threatened the mother and daughter with three years’ detention.
“The military prosecution today erased 8 of the 12 counts in Ahed Tamimi’s indictment, including all charges of stone throwing and incitement to terror,” Lasky wrote on Twitter. “Since the occupation’s legal system doesn’t provide justice we reached a plea of 8 months which is a considerable achievement.”
Lasky said the sentence includes time already spent in detention and Tamimi will be released in July.
The trial opened in military court at the Ofer prison center in the West Bank in mid-February. The judge ordered that the trial be conducted behind closed doors and said having a large crowd in the courtroom was “not in the interest of the minor.”
Lasky wrote on Monday, “Public scrutiny is Ahed’s only defense, and it is clear that without it, in secret proceedings, she cannot get a fair trial.”
In the video, Israeli soldiers largely avoid reacting to Tamimi besides swatting her hand away. Military prosecutors said her slapping and kicking was assault.
Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Michael Oren told NPR’s Daniel Estrin that “for an Israeli audience to see again and again photos of our [service member] children being beaten up and not have the army react in any way was very, very difficult for the society.”
Many Israelis say members of Tamimi’s family have exploited her into creating confrontations with Israeli soldiers on video.
However, NPR’s Estrin and Merrit Kennedy note: “The altercation with soldiers happened shortly after Tamimi’s cousin was shot in the head with a rubber bullet during a demonstration as he climbed a wall of a complex that Israeli soldiers had commandeered,” according to Bassem Tamimi.
The father also told NPR that the confrontation was in part spurred by Ahed seeing relatives being arrested and killed.
Human Rights Watch criticized Ahed Tamimi’s pretrial detention, calling it “both a violation of international law and unnecessary.” The organization and Tamimi’s advocates argue that there is a double standard for authorities prosecuting West Bank residents, where Israeli settlers are tried in civilian courts while Palestinians are tried in military courts.
The Israeli human rights group B’tselem said that more than 300 Palestinian minors were in Israeli custody as of last month, and responded to Tamimi’s sentence by saying it protects “the occupation, not Palestinian minors.”
Amnesty International released a statement saying the sentence “is a flagrant attempt to intimidate those who dare challenge the circumstances of the ongoing occupation” and Israeli authorities “have no regard for the rights of Palestinian children.”