Israel: All charges against poet Dareen Tatour must be dropped

doreenLondon, 5 September 2016

Poet Dareen Tatour should be released from house arrest immediately and unconditionally, and all charges against her dropped, said PEN International today. The trial of the Palestinian citizen of Israel on charges of “support for a terrorist organisation” and several counts of incitement to violence in connection with her poetry and social media activity is due to resume tomorrow, 6 September.

'Dareen Tatour is on trial because she wrote a poem. Dareen Tatour is critical of Israeli policies, but governments that declare themselves as democracies do not curb dissent.  Words like those of Dareen Tatour have been used by other revolutionary poets, during the Vietnam war, during other liberation wars, and they can be found in the works of Sufiya Kamal of Bangladesh, of Ernesto Cardenal of Nicaragua, and so on’, said Jennifer Clement, President of PEN International.

After reviewing the charge sheet and the evidence against her, PEN has concluded that Dareen Tatour has been targeted for her poetry and activism and is calling for her immediate and unconditional release.

‘The charges levelled against Dareen Tatour are serious, and the Israeli state wants to make the case that her words have directly led to specific violent incidents. But Israel has shown no such direct linkage. All Dareen Tatour has done is to have written a poem. She should never have been under house arrest; the world is watching; Israel should drop all charges against her. If the trial goes ahead, we hope it will result in her complete acquittal,’ said Salil Tripathi, chair of PEN International’s Writers in Prison Committee.*

Dareen Tatour writes of the need for Arab unity in the face of oppression, the absence of the Palestinian voice, and loss; she regularly makes references to those Palestinians who have been killed or have been the targets of violence. She was arrested at her home in Reineh, a small town near Nazareth, on 11 October 2015. Her arrest came amidst a wave of violent attacks on Israeli citizens, and a corresponding crackdown by the Israeli authorities, which saw its officers given greater opportunity to open fire; it is in this same context that Tatour wrote the material cited in the charge sheet.

Tatour has argued that the entire case against her centres on a mistranslation of a poem which she regards as a legitimate protest against crimes committed by Israeli settlers and soldiers occupying Palestinian land. The prosecution has reportedly petitioned the court not to allow Tatour’s defence team to present an alternative translation of the poem from Arabic into Hebrew.


The following is the Case List entry for Dareen Tatour which will be included in the forthcoming interim Case List for January to June 2016.

*Dareen TATOUR (f) (Palestinian)
Profession: Poet, photographer and activist Date of arrest: 11 October 2015 Details of arrest: Reports claim that Tatour was arrested from her home at 3am by the authorities, who possessed neither search nor arrest warrant. Tatour spent three months in detention in different Israeli prisons before being placed under house arrest outside Tel Aviv, where she was forced to wear an electronic surveillance device around her ankle. The immediate reason for Tatour’s detention appeared to be a status she posted on Facebook in relation to a Palestinian woman who had recently been shot by Israeli police. Posting a picture of the injured women, Tatour wrote underneath: ‘I will be the next martyr’. On 2 November 2015, she was charged with ‘support for a terrorist organisation’ under articles 4(b) and 4(g) of the Prevention of Terror Ordinance (1948), and multiple counts of ‘incitement to violence ’ under article 144(d)2 of the Penal Code, according to the indictment. These charges relate to a Youtube video posted on her own video channel as well as to three of Facebook posts. In the video, Tatour recites a poem entitled ‘Qawim ya sha’abi, qawimhum (Resist, my people, resist them)’ set to music against a backdrop of video footage of Palestinian youths throwing rocks at Israeli soldiers, Tatour denies the charges and claims the authorities have fundamentally misconstrued the meaning of her post and the poem. Current place of detention: House arrest in her home village of Reineh Details of trial: It has been reported that, during the first hearing of Tatour’s trial on 13 April 2016, the policeman who translated her poem for the court was called as a witness to explain the alleged incitement contained in the poem. He reportedly cited his studies of literature at school and love of the Arabic language as the necessary qualifications for translating the poem. The next hearings are expected to take place on 17 July and 6 September. Other information: an editorial in the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz has reportedly called for her release, calling her a ‘political prisoner’. An interview with Dareen Tatour after her return to her village can be read here. Tatour is the author of a book of poetry called The Last Invasion which was published by Mutbaat il-Balad in 2010.  Background: According to the Electronic Intifada, Tatour is also the director of a short documentary. [Stop press: Tatour’s most recent hearing, to have her transferred from house arrest in Tel Aviv to Reineh, was set for 17 July, but postponed until 25 July. At the end of the 25 July hearing, Tatour was re-arrested and taken to Jaleme detention center, because the court was not presented with a report from the company which provided her ankle monitor. Tatour was returned to her home village of Reineh on 26 July to continue her house arrest after the court was presented with the report.] PEN Action: Mentioned in 25 April 2016 statement PEN Position: After reviewing the charge sheet and the evidence against her, including the video and Facebook posts, PEN has concluded that Dareen Tatour has been targeted for her poetry and activism and is calling for her immediate and unconditional release.

*Please note: Salil Tripathi's quote has been amended