Activist tells of arrest by soldiers in Palestine

By Dan Santy Wednesday 10 October 2012 Updated: 16/10 10:11

A RUGBY woman arrested and interrogated by Israeli soldiers for taking part in a non-violent protest in Palestine has spoken of her experience.

Aimee McGovern spent two days being questioned by soldiers and then a week under house arrest following a demonstration in an occupied Palestinian village in the West Bank.

The 23-year-old, who grew up in Montague Road and went to Bilton High School and then Warwickshire College, was arrested in Kufr Qaddoum on September 21 along with two British activists, an American and two Palestinians.

The activists, working for the International Solidarity Movement, were there as part of a protest against the closure of a main road to Palestinians put in place 12 years ago.

Ms McGovern - who has been in Palestine for the last five weeks documenting events there - said: "The demonstration never gets this far along the road before they are met with excessive force from the army.

"The army preemptively invaded the village and started firing tear gas and sound bombs even before the demonstration had begun."

She said her group split up into two pairs when the side streets of the village were stormed by Israeli soldiers.

Ms McGovern and American Lauren Siebert were caught and tried to resist arrest by laying on the ground.

"They threatened that if we did not get up, the armoured bulldozer which was making its way down the road would not stop for us," said Ms McGovern.

The other pair, British nationals Ellie Clayton and Gordon Bennett, were allegedly kicked and punched for trying to film what was happening.

And, according to Ms McGovern, the soldiers made abusive and threatening remarks about what would happen to the four of them in prison.

After their arrest Ms McGovern and her colleagues were interrogated for eight hours before learning they were being held for throwing stones and 'being in a closed military zone'.

They were then imprisoned for 30 hours before appearing with their feet shackled at a court hearing conducted in Hebrew.

There the soldiers accused them of throwing stones - without evidence - in a push to get the judge to give them a prison sentence.

But the judge had doubts and instead sentenced the four to a week's house arrest. After another day in prison, they were held at a house in Tel Aviv and risked a fine of over £800 if they walked out the front door.

After seven days they were released and avoided being deported.

Ms McGovern returned to her home in London on Sunday (October 5).

The fate of the two young Palestinian brothers arrested at the protest is less clear. The pair were dragged from their home and were not even taking part, but they were still arrested on charges of endangering the lives of soldiers, Ms McGovern told The Observer.

"While this experience was unpleasant, and emotionally trying, I am strengthened in the knowledge these small inconveniences imposed upon me are a small sacrifice compared to the daily struggles of life under occupation, which the Palestinians face.

"And if our experiences are able to shed light on the struggle against apartheid, then that experience is no burden."

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