Palestinian astrophysicist appeals to Supreme Court against Facebook-posting military indictment


Palestinian astrophysics professor Imad Barghouthi is appealing to the Israeli Supreme Court against his indictment in Israeli military court for “incitement” due to posting on Facebook, said his lawyer, Jawad Boulos, on 20 July.

In the context of this appeal, the Ofer military court postponed Barghouthi’s hearing until 21 August, following the Supreme Court’s action on the appeal. Barghouthi, 54, a world-renowned professor of astrophysics at Al-Quds University, was arrested on 24 April at a military checkpoint near Nabi Saleh.

He was ordered to administrative detention without charge or trial, an act which sparked protests from scientists and academics around the world. Hundreds of scientists and other academics rallied around Barghouthi, signing petitions and demanding his release. AURDIP (the Association of Academics for the Respect of International Law in Palestine, France), BRICUP (British Committee for the Universities of Palestine), and BACBI (Belgian Campaign for Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel) have appealed to the European Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, urging him to request the suspension of the EU’s Association Agreement with Israel until Barghouthi is freed.

Following the submission of multiple petitions by international scientists for Barghouthi’s release, his administrative detention order was reduced first to two months, and then to one month. When he was scheduled to be released on 29 May, the Israeli occupation prosecution instead filed “incitement” charges against him and transferred his case to the military courts. Much of the military charges are based on the number of Barghouthi’s facebook friends, and the numbers of “likes” and “shares” received on his posts. Barghouthi is among hundreds of Palestinians targeted for arrest, imprisonment and military prosecution for writing and speaking on social media about their experience under occupation and support for Palestinian liberation.

The continued imprisonment of Barghouthi comes as Scientists for Palestine works with the Arab American University in Jenin to launch the First Palestinian Advanced Physics School.  At the school, advanced Palestinian master students in physics from several Palestinian universities (Al Quds University, Birzeit University, An Najah University, the Arab American University in Jenin (AAUJ), and the Islamic University in Gaza) will listen to lectures and engage in scientific discussion with internationally leading physicists in topics at the frontiers of physics research.  Lecturers at the school will include Philip Argyres, professor of theoretical particle physics at the University of Cincinnati in the United States; John Ellis, the Clerk Maxwell Professor of Theoretical Physics at King’s College London and visiting scientist at CERN in Geneva, Switzerland (home of the Large Hadron Collider, where the Higgs boson was discovered in 2012); and Giorgio Paolucci, Scientific Director of SESAME (a synchrotron light-source laboratory in Jordan established by a group of Middle Eastern countries including Palestine and scheduled to begin operation in 2017). The school is organized by physicists from the universities of Amsterdam, AAUJ, Birzeit, Cambridge, CERN, Cincinnati, and Southampton.

14 scientists, including leading physicist Freeman Dyson at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton ; David Mumford, recipient of the Fields Medal 1974 (the “Nobel prize of math”) ; and Chandler Davis, Professor Emeritus of Mathematics at the University of Toronto, recently published a letter in the 14 July issue of Nature drawing attention to Barghouthi’s imprisonment. Nature cut the letter dramatically, eliminating the context of Israeli assaults on Palestinian academia.