NEW YORK—Israel’s detention and prosecution of Arab-Israeli poet Dareen Tatour is further evidence of the increasingly aggressive measures undertaken by the government to restrict speech critical of the state, PEN America said in a statement today.

Tatour was arrested on October 11, 2015, when police entered her house in a town outside of Nazareth around 4 am without a search or arrest warrant. After almost a month in prison, she was indicted on November 2 under two laws: Incitement to Violence and Support for a Terrorist Organization. After spending three months being shuffled between Israeli prisons, in mid-January Tatour was placed under house arrest in a rented home without internet access in Kiryat Ono, a city just outside Tel Aviv and more than 40 miles away from her hometown. She will remain under house arrest for the duration of her trial, which is scheduled to resume on July 17 and September 6.

The prosecution cited Tatour’s poetry and social media activity as grounds for her arrest and indictment. On October 3 and 4, 2015 a video was posted on her Facebook and YouTube accounts depicting a reading of her poem “Resist, My People, Resist Them,” set against images of Palestinians clashing with Israeli security forces. On October 4, a Facebook status posted on her page noted that the Islamic Jihad movement had called for a “continuation of the intifada” in the West Bank. And on October 9, a photograph of Isra’a Abed, an Arab-Israeli woman carrying a knife who was shot by security officers in the Afula station, was posted on her Facebook page, captioned with the phrase “I will be the next martyr.” Shahid, an Arabic word for martyr, is narrowly interpreted by many Israelis as those willing to commit acts of terrorism like suicide bombings; many Palestinians use the word to refer to victims of Israeli state violence. The bulk of the evidence cited against Tatour rests on the video and how her poem should be interpreted. The court relied on a translation of the poem, composed in Arabic, by an Israeli police officer with no professional experience as a literary translator. During the hearing, the prosecution also cited Tatour’s participation in a Kafr Qasim massacre memorial event and her poetry reading at a “Woman’s Day” event in Nazareth.

“Interpreting an artistic work as a direct call to terrorism dangerously misconstrues an act of free expression by an Arab citizen of Israel as a serious security threat punishable by preventative detention and prosecution,” said Karin Deutsch Karlekar, director of Free Expression Programs at PEN America. “The connection between Tatour’s activities and the charges of incitement to violence and support for terrorism relies solely on suggestion in the form of a poem and video rather than actual evidence. Her detention, one in a string of recent arrests of writers and journalists, signals a worrying expansion in Israeli law enforcement policy to silence views the government deems unsavory.”

Tatour’s case is one of a number of recent cases of administrative detention and legal charges brought against journalists and those who use social media to publish their writing, both within the Occupied Palestinian Territories and Israel, including the cases of Palestinian journalists Muhammed al-Qiq and Omar Nazzal.

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PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression at home and abroad. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible. Learn more at pen.org

CONTACT
Sarah Edkins, Deputy Director for Communications: +1 646-779-4830, sedkins@pen.org

This statement has been updated to reflect commonly accepted terminology for the Occupied Palestinian Territories.