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Bristol Activist Deported from Palestine
UK peace activist faces deportation by Israeli occupation authorities and is set to be detained by Special Branch under anti-terror powers upon return
Tom Woodnut, a British activist, is currently facing deportation by Israeli authorities after being arrested last Friday by border police at a demonstration in Kafr Qaddum, a village in the occupied Palestinian territories.
Woodnut, was a volunteer in the West Bank with the International Solidarity Movement since early-October last autumn. On 1 March, Woodnut was amongst several international and Israeli activists attending one of Kafr Quddom´s weekly Friday protests, with the aim of monitoring and, by what is colloquially referred to as "white-face defense", restrain violence by the Israeli occupation forces. The regular demonstrations, which began in July 2011, are part of a local strategy by the village´s popular struggle committee to regain access to the road which leads to Nablus, the nearest city. It has been obstructed by a roadblock since 2003 and all travel to Nablus henceforth has been elongated by 14km one-way going the next shortest route.
Last Friday´s demonstration, as customary, began with approximately 150 walking up the road towards the colonial-settlement Qedumim, where the earthmound sits further along. The protestors were forced back into Kafr Qaddum with stun grenades, teargas and rubber-coated steel bullets. Afterwards, the protesters managed to gather themselves again and moved towards the village exit, where they became apprehensive at the apparent disappearance of the border police, who were accompanied by soldiers. However, when two jeeps, tailed by police on foot, sped toward the protestors, they ran back towards the village centre. At which point several border police officers burst out of a vacant building where they had been hiding and grabbed who they could of the surprised protesters running past them. Along with two Palestinians, Belal Fathi Jomaa (22) and Nayif Khalel Jomaa (17), Woodnut was arrested by three officers during which he was hit with a rifle butt, whilst one of the Palestinians was photographed being hit in the back of the head with a rock by one officer. The teenager is being held in Megiddo prison, where Arafat Jaradat was lethally tortured during interrogation a few days ago. The other Palestinian is interned in Huwara military base; whilst Woodnut is currently being transferred to detention by the Israeli Interior Ministry as part of his deportation ordeal. No evidence has been presented of any wrong-doing and this, ISM maintains, is due to the Israeli government not wanting any outside scrutiny of the recent upsurge of violent oppression in the West Bank.
Woodnut, had previously been one of the six activists who broke into the Brighton factory of EDO-MBM Technology and, after barricading themselves in, proceeded to damage around £200,000 worth of manufacturing equipment. Following a month-long trial in Lewes in summer 2010, they were cleared of charges of criminal damage after satisfying the court that they had lawful excuse by preventing war crimes; due to the company´s proven supply of exclusively-made equipment used by the Israeli military in the December 2008 to January 2009 offensive in the Gaza Strip. Prior to his time in Palestine, Woodnut had been a first aid trainer with the British Red Cross in his city of residence, Bristol.
Upon his return to the UK, Woodnut is reasonably expected to be detained for questioning by Special Branch under Schedule VII powers provided within the Anti-Terrorism Act 2000. This is in line with the recent experiences of two researchers from Corporate Watch, campaign affiliates of Woodhead through Smash EDO. They were quizzed on a variety of personal and non-violent campaigning-related matters with no relation to any ongoing criminal proceedings and no further action taken in either case. Woodnut met with the two, Therezia Cooper and Tom Anderson, in the Jordan Valley for a memorial day held for Simon Levin, a late member of the Smash EDO and Jordan Valley Solidarity direct-action campaign groups and co-defendant in the ´decomissioners´ trial. This tactic of misusing legislation that uniquely disallows a right to silence to glean background information on activists has been condemned in articles by both ISM and Corporate Watch.