Heritage Reporter

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Palestinian-American woman who faces trial in Israeli military court is released on bail

A U.S. citizen who was dragged out of her home and detained by Israeli authorities for over three weeks was released on bail Thursday to wait out the remainder of her trial in the West Bank, the latest in a case attracting international attention for prosecuting an American in Israeli military court.


Samaher Esmail, a 46-year-old mother of Palestinian origin and resident of New Orleans, had been in the West bank for under three months when she was charged with incitement for several photos and messages she posted to social media.

Some of them involved images of top Hamas leaders but did not explicitly call for violence.

Esmail, who suffers from cancer and kidney problems, was bruised and sickly when her lawyer visited her at Damon prison, where she was held in the north of Israel before her release.

Esmail is now allowed to return to her West Bank village. She will only be able to go back to the U.S. once her trial concludes, which could take months, and only if she is found not guilty.

That a U.S. citizen is being tried in military court — a legal system for West Bank Palestinians separate from the civilian courts enjoyed by Israelis — has drawn widespread criticism.

Israel says it provides due process and largely imprisons those who threaten its security.

Palestinians and human rights groups say the system is awash in violations of due process and almost always renders guilty verdicts, with 95% of military court hearings ending in convictions, according to Israeli watchdog Military Court Watch.

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