Ofer - Shooting, Holding and trading of combat materiel

Observers: 
Roni Hammermann., Sibylle E. (a guest from Switzerland), Norah Orlow. (reporting)
Oct-22-2007
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Translation: Jonathan M.

Court Room #3 - Appeals

The accused: Hussam Zuhadi Dahud Zehaika Shahin - case #2798/07

Three judges presiding

Presiding Judge: Colonel Dani Freedman

Colonel Moshe Matalon

Lieutenant-colonel Netanel Benishu
Prosecutor: Major Sarit Shemer

Defense: Attorney Fida Kawar

Present in the court room: the parents of the accused, his sister, and a woman belonging to a Norwegian support group. The sister and the woman were allowed in upon our request (usually only two family members are allowed).

Hussam Shahin had been found guilty of attempted manslaughter and weapons dealing (see report from 20.2.07, case #1436/04). He has been sentenced to eighteen years in prison.

The defense attorney is certain of his client's innocence. He offers a brief summery of the trial. In the reasons for his appeal he states unreasonable investigation problems that included problematic translation (the witnesses were questioned by people who were not fluent in Arabic). He also appeals the evidence used in the trial, the fact that no lineup had taken place and that the incriminating witnesses' statements were not corroborated.

It was never proven that the accused had any connection to the suspected group. There is uncertainty regarding the type of weapons and ammunition used and regarding its hiding place. The attorney also addresses the issue of premeditation. The facts of the case do not prove any premeditation to cause death. Necessary premeditation was not proven beyond a reasonable doubt. All this establishes doubt regarding the identity of the suspect. The defense attorney claims that there was a different person with the same name as his client.

Regarding the investigation he says: "the acccused version is only documented once in a police investigation memo. This memo does not appear to be an official memo and his client was not informed of his rights before the memo was written. This is the only version of the accused's story and could not be compared with other testimony given to the police or the GSS, since no other testimony was taken from him...

Regarding identification of the accused: "the three witnesses gave a description of a person resembling Hussam of Ramalla, supposedly the accused. There is a doubt regarding the identity of the mentioned Hussam. There has been no corroboration of their statements; there were no photos, no line up and no detailed physical description. All three witnesses gave the same general description, but it is totally different than the appearance of my client..."

I claim again that the uncertainty in this case is great....as a result of the problematic nature of the different issues I described....the investigations, the weapons, the shooting, the incrimination..."

In regards to the verdict: "I ask the court to find the accused not guilty based on reasonable doubt and reverse the previous decision of the court. If the court does not reverse the decision I would ask it to reduce the sentence of my client, I would ask it not to be any longer than that of the minimal sentence received by members of the armed group (the three witnesses) - eight years."

The prosecutor responds to the defense attorney and to comments made by two of the judges who seem to believe that there were problems in the prosecution's case. She agrees that there have been some problematic aspects to the case, which will be investigated, but does not believe that it is necessary to change the court's ruling. Regarding the failures in the investigation, even if such existed, these did not affect the evidence and the factual base of the prosecution still stands.

At a certain stage the main prosecutor steps in and reprimands the judges for their comments and on their wish to change the order of things.

The head judge mumbles something about "just asking questions". The whole scene was very strange. If the prosecutor is the one making decisions in the court room than things have really changed and we must keep aware of that.

It is still unknown when the court will make its decision regarding the appeal. It might take weeks or months.