The Israeli military has confirmed it is extending the detention of a prominent Palestinian activist, saying it believes he will resume leading violent demonstrations if he is freed.
Abdullah Abu-Rahmeh had been scheduled to be released this week after spending almost a year in prison on a conviction of incitement.
But the army said Tuesday that a military court has ordered him to remain behind bars until authorities decide on a request by prosecutors to lengthen his sentence. A court date hasn’t been set for the appeal.
Abu-Rahmeh led weekly demonstrations in the West Bank village of Bil’in against Israel’s separation barrier for the past five years. The protests often turn violent with protesters throwing rocks at soldiers, who in turn fire tear gas and sometimes rubber bullets in efforts to contain the crowd.
The village of Bil’in has become the symbol of the struggle against the separation fence, serving as the site of dozens of joint Palestinian-Israeli demonstrations in recent years.
The European Union has criticized Abu-Rahmeh’s conviction as a violation of free speech.
In a strongly worded statement, the EU’s Catherine Ashton said she was deeply concerned by the guilty verdict against Abu-Rahmeh.
“The EU sees the barrier’s route as illegal and views Abu-Rahmeh as a human rights defender committed to nonviolent protest,” Ashton said.
Ashton suggested the conviction was intended to prevent him and other Palestinians from exercising their legitimate right to protest against the existence of the separation barriers in a nonviolent manner.