Human rights campaigner arrested and charged for saying “Viva Palestina” – Stand up for the right to free speech, September 9th, 10am outside Aberdeen Sheriff Court
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Aberdeen resident and human rights campaigner Ally Coutts (56) was arrested, detained for 7 hours and charged with “Acting in a racially aggravated manner with intent to cause distress and alarm” for simply saying “Viva Palestina” next to the Jericho Cosmetics stall in Union Square, Aberdeen. Jericho Cosmetics sell products derived from minerals illegally extracted from occupied Palestinian territories surrounding the Dead Sea. The extraction and commercialisation of resources from an occupied territory by the occupant is prohibited by UN resolutions and the Fourth Geneva Convention (http://www.cjpme.org/fs_146). Notably, Palestinians have no access to such resources – the exclusive access of resources to a section of the population based on ethnicity amounts to apartheid as defined by the UN.
For these reasons in June 2016 the Aberdeen branch of the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign (SPSC) launched an entirely peaceful campaign urging 1) the Aberdeen public to boycott all Jericho products, and 2) lobbying to have Jericho stalls removed from both Union Square and the Trinity Centre. The campaign is in line with the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign against Israel called by the Palestinian civil society in 2005 to uphold the simple principle that Palestinians are entitled to the same rights as the rest of humanity. The State of Israel is currently denying these basic rights with the inhumane occupation of the West Bank, discrimination of Palestinian citizens in Israel and denial of the right to return to Palestinian refugees.
Sustained SPSC campaigns in Glasgow, Dundee and Edinburgh have previously resulted in the closure of Dead Sea stalls (including Jericho) in those cities. However, Jericho are still trading in both Union Square and the Trinity Centre, where management have shamefully disregarded the plight of the Palestinians and the breaches of international law and human right abuses which underpin extraction and exploitation of Dead Sea minerals.
To add insult to injury is the shocking treatment of one of our valued members: Ally Coutts. At around 2pm on Tuesday 16th August Ally said “Viva Palestina” as he walked past the Jericho stall in Union Square to express his outrage at the unethical and unlawful nature of Jericho’s business. This resulted in Ally being shepherded out of Union Square by a member of Jericho Cosmetics. When Ally re-entered Union Square he was told by Union Square security staff to leave the shopping centre. Ally refused on the basis that he hadn’t done anything wrong and had purely exercised his right to air his concerns. Two Police Scotland officers then appeared and told Ally that a complaint had been made against him by a member of Jericho cosmetics and asked him to leave. Once outside, one of the Police officers handcuffed him and then took him to Kittybrewster Police station where he remained until his release at around 22.00 that day, having been charged for “Acting in a racially aggravated manner with intent to cause distress and alarm”.
Unfortunately this appears to be part of a planned series of attacks on pro-Palestinian solidarity movements: 1) Another member of Aberdeen SPSC has received intimidating visits by Police Scotland officers at his own home simply for his involvement in the Jericho campaign; 2) Aberdeen SPSC public events planning for the Jericho campaign have also been disrupted by unannounced Police visits; 3) Activists in Glasgow and Edinburgh have also been charged with similarly ludicrous accusations with court hearings on-going; 4) Unsurprisingly a Freedom of Information request on correspondence between a range of organisations has revealed that the Crown Office and Police Scotland have been readily acting on the specific requests of pro-Israel groups who disregard the human right abuses perpetrated on the Palestinian people.
Equating legitimate criticism of Israel’s human right abuses to racist behaviour amounts to suppression of freedom of expression and more specifically to intimidation of pro-Palestinian campaigners. This is nothing short than a shocking attempt to silence dissent towards the gross breaches of international law and human right abuses perpetrated by the State of Israel. At best it is a major attack to Aberdeen’s proud tradition of pluralism.
Join us at Ally’s hearing at 10 am on the 9th September outside Aberdeen Sheriff Court to share your outrage at these events and make it clear that such tactics will not stop our campaign against the crimes perpetrated by the State of Israel on the Palestinian People.