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Israel military trial of Palestinian teen opens behind closed doors

© AFP | Seventeen-year-old Palestinian Ahed Tamimi, a well-known campaigner against Israel's occupation, arrives for the beginning of her trial at the Israeli military court at Ofer military prison in the West Bank village of Betunia on February 13, 2018

OFER MILITARY COURT (PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES) (AFP) - 

A Palestinian teenager charged after a viral video showed her hitting two Israeli soldiers in a case that has gained global attention went on trial in military court on Tuesday in closed-door proceedings.

The judge in the trial ordered journalists removed from the courtroom, ruling that open proceedings would not be in the interest of 17-year-old Ahed Tamimi, who is being tried as a minor.

Only family members were allowed to remain in the courtroom, with diplomats present to observe also asked to leave.

A large crowd of local and international journalists had shown up to cover the trial of Tamimi, who has become something of an icon for Palestinians and supporters of their cause worldwide.

Trials of minors in military court are typically closed, but Tamimi's lawyer said previous hearings for the teenager were open and she argued for it to remain that way.

"They understand that people outside Ofer military court are interested in Ahed's case, they understand that her rights are being infringed and her trial is something that shouldn't be happening," Tamimi's lawyer Gaby Lasky told journalists after having unsuccessfully objected to the judge's decision to close the trial.

"So the way to keep it out of everybody's eyes is to close doors and not allow people inside the court for her hearing."

Tamimi arrived at the military court near Jerusalem in the occupied West Bank dressed in a prison jacket with her hands and feet shackled, smiling slightly as journalists photographed her.

Her father Bassem Tamimi waved to her from the audience, yelling out "stay strong, you will win."

Tamimi has been hailed as a hero by Palestinians who see her as bravely standing up to Israel's occupation of the West Bank.

Israelis accuse her family of using her as a pawn in staged provocations.

She has been charged with 12 counts including assault and could face a lengthy jail term if convicted.

The charges relate to events in the video and five other incidents. They include stone-throwing, incitement and making threats.

- Criticism of case -

Tamimi's mother, Nariman, and cousin Nour, 20, were also due to go on trial later Tuesday. It was not clear whether those proceedings would take place as planned.

Ahed Tamimi and her mother have been ordered held in custody until the end of the proceedings, while her cousin has been released on bail.

The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has criticised Israeli authorities' actions in the case, while the European Union has expressed concern over Israel's detention of minors, including Ahed Tamimi.

Amnesty International has called for her immediate release, saying her "continued detention is a desperate attempt to intimidate Palestinian children who dare to stand up to repression by occupying forces."

Ahed Tamimi's family says the December 15 incident that led to the arrests occurred in the yard of their home in Nabi Saleh, near Ramallah in the West Bank.

The Israeli military said the soldiers were in the area to prevent Palestinians from throwing stones at Israeli motorists.

A video shows the cousins approaching two soldiers and telling them to leave before shoving, kicking and slapping them.

Ahed Tamimi is the more aggressive of the two in the video.

The heavily armed soldiers do not respond to what appears to be an attempt to provoke rather than seriously harm them.

They then move backwards after Nariman Tamimi becomes involved.

The scuffle took place amid clashes and protests against US President Donald Trump's controversial recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

Relatives say that a member of the Tamimi family was wounded in the head by a rubber bullet fired during those protests.

Twenty-three Palestinians have been killed since Trump's declaration on December 6, most of them in clashes with Israeli forces. Two Israelis have been killed since then.

Ahed Tamimi, who comes from a family of prominent activists, has been involved in a series of previous incidents, with older pictures of her confronting soldiers widely published.

Palestinians have flooded social media with praise and support.

© 2018 AFP