An Israeli court will hear the case against Palestinian teenager Ahed Tamimi behind closed doors after a judge refused a request to allow journalists to follow her trial.
She was arrested two months ago for slapping an IDF officer and has been charged in an Israeli military court on twelve counts of violence and incitement.
Her case has drawn widespread international attention after video footage of the slapping incident and her subsequent arrest went viral online.
The military judge in the case, Lieutenant-Colonel Menachem Lieberman, ruled on Tuesday that it would not be “in her interests”.
Ms Tamimi is currently on remand at the Ha’Sharon women’s prison, where she turned seventeen a few weeks ago.
Over a hundred journalists and human rights observers gathered on Tuesday to attend her pre-trial motions at a court at Ofer, north of Jerusalem, when in a surprise move the judge ordered his courtroom cleared of everyone besides Ms Tamimi’s lawyers and family members.
A few minutes later, after Ms Tamimi had herself been led out, the judge allowed journalists to return to the courtroom and ruled that future hearings would be behind closed doors.
Defence lawyer Gaby Lasky argued Ms Tamimi’s rights as a minor were already harmed two months ago when the IDF filmed her arrest and distributed the footage to the Israeli media, and that she now insisted on the media’s presence “for her protection”.
But the judge said he didn’t see “how having a hundred people here will be in the defendant’s interests – and she has her lawyers and family”.
Ms Tamimi will remain in custody until the first evidentiary hearing, provisionally scheduled for next month.
Human rights activists in Israel said military courts have previously allowed the cases of Palestinian minors to be heard openly when the defence requested it.
An Israeli security official said the judge’s motivation was to prevent Ms Tamimi’s family and lawyers from transforming the case into a political and media spectacle.
Footage of Ms Tamimi appearing to slap Israeli soldiers in the West Bank caused an internet sensation in December. Some applauded the soldiers’ restraint, while others attacked the use of a military court to hear the case of a minor.