The WAFA News Agency reported a statement issued by the spokesperson of the EU’s High Representative Catherine Ashton yesterday that the European Union defends the right of Palestinians to hold peaceful protests against illegal Israeli settlement construction on their land.The statement was made after an Israeli military court on Sunday convicted Nabi Saleh activist, Bassem Tamimi, 45, of urging youths to throw rocks at security forces and of leading illegal anti-occupation protests in his Ramallah-area village. The conviction was based on the testimony of a 15-year-old.

Al-Tamimi led protests in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh for years against Israeli policies. The protests often turn into clashes between rock-throwing youths and Israeli forces firing tear gas.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said in a statement Tuesday that the minor was interrogated “in violation of his rights.”

“The High Representative is very concerned by the conviction of Bassem Tamimi in an Israeli military court on 20 May 2012 on charges of taking part in illegal demonstrations and of soliciting protesters to throw stones,” said the spokesperson.

“The EU considers Bassem Tamimi to be a ‘human rights defender’ committed to non-violent protest against the expansion of an Israeli settlement on lands belonging to his West Bank village of Nabi Saleh.

The EU attended all court hearings in his case and is concerned at the use of evidence based on the testimony of a minor who was interrogated in violation of his rights,” added the spokesperson.

“The EU believes that everyone should be able to exercise their legitimate right to protest in a nonviolent manner,” the spokesperson concluded.