Israel: all charges against poet Dareen Tatour must be dropped

Israel: all charges against poet Dareen Tatour must be dropped

A version of this statement originally appeared on the PEN International website.

PEN Center USA joins with PEN International in demanding that poet Dareen Tatour be released from house arrest immediately and unconditionally, and that all charges against her be dropped. The Palestinian citizen of Israel is charged with supporting a terrorist organization and several counts of inciting violence, in connection with her poetry and social media activity. Her most recent trial date on September 6, 2016, was postponed to November 9, 2016, because no translator was available.

"Dareen Tatour is on trial because she wrote a poem. Dareen Tatour is critical of Israeli policies, but governments that declare themselves as democracies do not curb dissent.  Words like those of Dareen Tatour have been used by other revolutionary poets, during the Vietnam war, during other liberation wars, and they can be found in the works of Sufiya Kamal of Bangladesh, of Ernesto Cardenal of Nicaragua, and so on," said Jennifer Clement, President of PEN International.

After reviewing the charge sheet and the evidence against her, PEN has concluded that Dareen Tatour has been targeted for her poetry and activism and is calling for her immediate and unconditional release.

"The charges leveled against Dareen Tatour are serious, and the Israeli state wants to make the case that her words have directly led to specific violent incidents. But Israel has shown no such direct linkage. All Dareen Tatour has done is to have written a poem. She should never have been under house arrest; the world is watching; Israel should drop all charges against her. If the trial goes ahead, we hope it will result in her complete acquittal," said Salil Tripathi, chair of PEN International’s Writers in Prison Committee.*

Dareen Tatour writes of the need for Arab unity in the face of oppression, the absence of the Palestinian voice, and loss. She regularly makes references to Palestinians who have been killed or have been the targets of violence. She was arrested at her home in Reineh, a small town near Nazareth, on October 11, 2015. Her arrest came amidst a wave of violent attacks on Israeli citizens, and a corresponding crackdown by the Israeli authorities, which saw its officers given greater opportunity to open fire; it is in this same context that Tatour wrote the material cited in the charges against her.

Tatour has argued that the entire case against her centers on a mistranslation of a poem which she regards as a legitimate protest against crimes committed by Israeli settlers and soldiers occupying Palestinian land. The prosecution has reportedly petitioned the court not to allow Tatour’s defense team to present an alternative translation of the poem from Arabic into Hebrew.

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Reports claim that Tatour was arrested at her home at 3a.m. on October 11, 2015, by authorities who possessed no search or arrest warrant. Tatour spent three months in detention in different Israeli prisons before being placed under house arrest outside Tel Aviv, where she was forced to wear an electronic surveillance device around her ankle. The immediate reason for Tatour’s detention appeared to be a status she posted on Facebook in relation to a Palestinian woman who had recently been shot by Israeli police. Posting a picture of the injured women, Tatour wrote underneath: "I will be the next martyr."

On November 2, 2015, she was charged with "support for a terrorist organization" under articles 4(b) and 4(g) of the Prevention of Terror Ordinance (1948), and multiple counts of "incitement of violence" under article 144(d)2 of the Penal Code, according to the indictment. These charges relate to a Youtube video posted on her own video channel and three of her Facebook posts. In the video, Tatour recites a poem entitled "Qawim ya sha’abi, qawimhum (Resist, my people, resist them)" set to music against a backdrop of video footage of Palestinian youths throwing rocks at Israeli soldiers. Tatour denies the charges and claims the authorities have fundamentally misconstrued the meaning of her post and the poem.

She is currently under house arrest in her home village of Reineh. It has been reported that during the first hearing of Tatour’s trial on April 13, 2016, the policeman who translated her poem for the court was called as a witness to explain the alleged incitement contained in the poem. He reportedly cited his studies of literature at school and love of the Arabic language as the necessary qualifications for translating the poem.

*Please note: Salil Tripathi’s quote has been amended.

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