Palestinian activists accuse German police of heavy-handed crackdown on vigil in Berlin

·3-min read

Several activists protesting the Israeli occupation of Palestine and mourning Shireen Abu Akleh, the Al Jazeera journalist who was shot dead while covering a raid in the West Bank last week,have reportedly been arrested in German capital Berlin.

Activists alleged that nearly 170 people were arrested on Sunday during a protest against the journalist’s killing.

Although the vigil for Abu Akleh, who eyewitnesses said was killed by Israeli soldiers, was organised by a Jewish group, authorities in Berlin banned it claiming that it fell under the ban on protests ahead of Nakba Day. Israeli authories have denied that she was killed by one of their soldiers.

Every year, 15 May is observed as the Nakba Day to commemorate the displacement of Palestinians when the Israeli state was founded in the aftermath of the Second World War.

“Nakba” is the Arabic word for “catastrophe” or “disaster” and the occasion remembers the 700,000 Palestinians forced to flee as a result of the 1948 Arab-Israeli War and seek refuge in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, often without citizenship being granted.

Several activists were arrested during a spontaneous demonstration in the Neukolln region, German daily Berliner Zeitung reported.

“Police are literally arresting anyone they seen on the street who even says “free Palestine” or wears a keffiyeh [Palestinian scraf],” journalist Hebh Jamal wrote on Twitter. Prominent activist Ramsy Kilani was also arrested, she added.

“German police in Berlin forbidding any demos connected to Palestine and cracking down on anyone wearing Palestinian colours or the keffiyeh in public places is an alarming step of repression,” he said.

Authorities justified the ban on the pro-Palestine demonstration by saying they presented an “immediate risk” of anti-Semitic chants, glorification of violence and acts of violence.

A court in Berlin upheld a ban on pro-Palestine protests last month due to alleged anti-Semitic incidents that took place on the sidelines of an anti-Israel protest.

Last week, Israeli forces attacked a crowd of mourners carrying the casket of the Abu Akleh. Her body was being brought from the town of Jenin – where, it was claimed, she was killed by Israeli forces – to Jerusalem via Nablus and Ramallah, in a procession ahead of her funeral.

Footage shared by media networks and online showed armoured Israeli officers descend on those moving the casket with batons, before beating and kicking a number of the mourners. There were also reports of stun grenades being used.

Among those fleeing the scene were children and women, while other members of Abu Akleh’s procession attempt to guard her casket, which appears close to falling to the ground at some points.

Abu Akleh was a widely respected correspondent who spent more than 20 years covering the harsh realities of life under Israeli military rule.

The article was amended on 17 May 2022. An earlier version contained a reference to Ms Abu Akleh as having been killed by Israeli forces, but should have made it clear that this was a disputed claim.

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