Ofer - Appeal, Health Problems
Translation: Marganit W.
Three-judge panel: Colonel Arie Noah, Lieut. Col. Ronen Atzmon, Lieut. Col. Yaakov Lehrer
Prosecutor: Major Bella Gelfand
Defense: Tariq Bargouth
At the appellate court the prosecution appealed the sentence in the case of
Salah Muhammad Abed-Alrahman Diria – ID 997120472
Salah Diria lives in a village near Bethlehem, squeezed between 2 implacable systems that feed on each other: the occupation army and mental illness. People like Salah are easy prey for the soldiers because they do not run away, cannot explain themselves, and their answers to checkpoint guards or interrogators are incoherent. It is easy to pin charges on them because they can’t deny or explain. Diria – according to the sister who takes care of him – is schizophrenic. He was caught with a knife, was arrested and sent to two years in prison. The prosecution appeals the lenient sentence, demanding 5 years.
Mr. Diria sat on the defendants’ bench, dressed in civilian clothes, not the prison orange uniform. He was unshaven and looked blankly into space. His sister gestured to him from the hall but he did not respond.
During the hearing we heard that after his arrest he was sent to psychiatric evaluation. We did not see a psychiatrist’s report, but the prosecutor had apparently seen it and she surmised (based on what psychiatric training??) that it was not convincing. It turns out that there is such a thing as “Prison Authority Psychiatrist”.
Is there a connection between the fact that the Prison Authority employs a psychiatrist and that person’s professional opinion on Palestinian clients, i,e., clients of his employer? One wonders.
The prosecutor said that in 2009 Mr. Diria was convicted for a serious violation, but was later released. Thus, he has to be “removed from society” for a much longer period than for the previous conviction.
Again, we witness total ignorance by Israelis of the existence and the life of the other. In “remove from society” the prosecutor refers to Jewish society. The existence of a Palestinian society, one not threatened by Diria’s knife, does not even enter the prosecutor’s consciousness. We don’t know what serious violation she refers to, but it is obvious that he was sick then too and not responsible for his deeds.
The defendant’s sister asked to address the court. She described her sick brother’s life and his family’s life. Her words made the court change its course.
So what shall we do with him, asked Colonel Noah.
The defense said that Mr. Diria, like many before him, brandished a knife at the checkpoint because he wanted to be arrested. He added: I have a suggestion. Let us transfer him to hospital.
But Justice Noah bristled at the suggestion. He declared that Israel is a country of law and order and people are sent to mental hospital based only on a psychiatrist’s opinion.
This declaration the judge delivered in a military court of an occupation regime, which by any international criterion is illegal.
When asked if he had anything to say, Diria said, “I’ve done nothing. I am sick. I’ve been at home for 5-6 years now. The doctor saw me in prison. I am sorry”.
A comment about the translation: The interpreter sat with his face hidden behind the computer monitor. We could not see his face. He mumbled parts of the hearing but it was unintelligible. But when he was asked to translate the sister’s words from Arabic into Hebrew for the benefit of the judge, he got up, stood in the middle of the room and translated loud and clear.
This is an issue of defendants’ rights and the public’s right to know.
Outside we spoke to Diria’s sister. She said he is married and has 3 children. He lives with his and her family and she takes care of him. He is under medical supervision at Bethlehem hospital and does not leave the house. Keeping him in prison endangers his life, but he himself does not realize it.
Further hearing and decision will take place at a later date.