Today, 19th January, 1998, the Palestinian State Security Court met at the Military Court Headquarters in the Office of then Governor of Jericho to try Nasser Abu Arrous and Jasser Salaami’. Following a closed thirty-minute hearing, prior to which the defendants had not received notification of their charges nor were they permitted to appoint their own defense attorneys, the State Security Court handed down a sentence of 15 years hard labor. The charges, trial and imprisonment of the two defendants are a serious violation of human rights and are unlawful under the relevant legislation in the West Bank.

Nasser Abu Arrous, aged 23 years of Nablus, and Jasser Salaami’, 25 years also of Nablus, were arrested four days ago by the Palestinian General Intelligence Service. Following an announcement by the Palestinian National Authority yesterday that the State Security Court would try the two for charges connected to the bombings in West Jerusalem on 13 July 1997 and 4 September 1997, LAW sent its attorneys to represent the Abu Arrous and Salaami’ at trial.

At 10.00 hours local time the attorneys at LAW sought to enter the Governor’s offices in order to represent the client, but were told by the court police that the court was not yet in session. After ninety minutes the lawyers were called into the building, in which it transpired the State Security Court had been in session. The Chair of the State Security Court, Colonel Marwan Fedar, immediately on the arrival of the defense lawyers, handed down a sentence of 15 years hard labor for Nasser Abu Arrous and Jasser Salaami’. The two had been charged with offences under the Revolutionary

Punishment Law of the Palestine Liberation Organization 1979. The charges related to the commission of terrorist acts, article 174, and damaging national unity, article 178.

These codes do not form part of Palestinian law and have no validityin the West Bank including Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip. Consequently the accusations, charges, trial and sentence are all unlawful and thetwo defendants are facing 15 years imprisonment for non-existent offenses.

The trial of Abu Arrous and Salaami’ was conducted, as with other trials of the State Security Court, in violation of basic principles of fair trial. The defendants were not permitted to prepare a defense, appoint their own defense attorneys, the trial was conducted in closed session and it is unclear what rules of procedure were employed.

The trial and sentence again demonstrate that the State Security Court is a serious violation of human rights. While the Court continues to exist it defies and destabilizes the basic foundations of justice: the rule of law, fair trial and the independence of the judiciary. Since its establishment in February 1995 the State Security Court has successively tried political opponents as an expedient means of incarceration.

LAW calls for the immediate abolition of the State Security Court, as it corrupts law and judicial procedures in the Palestinian areas of the Occupied Territories. It also calls for all decisions of the State Security Court to be reviewed by the Palestinian High Court.