Ofer - Plea Bargain

Observers: 
Tova Szeintuch, Norah Orlow (reporting)
26/11/2007
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Translation: Marganit Weinberger-Rotman

Subject of this report: Detention for membership and activity in illegal organizations

For several weeks now we have seen equal treatment of Palestinian and Jewish women when it comes to physical examination. We, too, are now required to go through the women's examination room. In principle, we have no objection to the new procedure, and we go through it nonchalantly. Not so the Palestinian women who find the examination humiliating; some even forgo their right to see their loved ones for a few minutes during the trial, because they resent the soldiers frisking them. As far as we are concerned, it is clear that the new order has nothing to do with security; the purpose is to harass us and to make our job harder.

At 10 o'clock we discovered that the list of cases for the day had not yet been placed in the boxes outside the courtrooms. We looked for the officer responsible for distributing the lists, and half an hour later they materialized, minus the list of appeals (the last one posted there was from Nov. 11!).

We had come especially to hear the verdict in the case of Ataf Alyan - Case no. 4645/06, since we have been following the case for a long time (See earlier reports by Hava Halevi from Nov.8, 07 and a portrait of Ataf Alyan in the site "Women for Political Female Prisoners"

 www.wofpp.org/english/etafi.html - www.wofpp.org/hebrew/etafi.html

When we found out that the Alyan trial would take place only after lunch, we decided to attend trials of cases we were not familiar with. Two days later, Ataf Alyan's attorney gave us the protocol of her trial.

Three-year-old Aysha (daughter of the accused) spent many hours outside the court compound in the company of two women. She was not allowed to join two relatives already in the waiting room, since "only two persons are admitted, and in any case, children are not permitted in the courtrooms." We asked attorney Asmahan Abd-Elhadi to try and solve this problem, and eventually she obtained the judge's permission to admit the child.

The verdict was given after lunch, when we were not present. Here are the main arguments of the protocol:

Judge: Colonel Menachem Lieberman

Prosecutor: Lieutenant Tali Keret

Prosecutor: The accused is a member of Al Nakaa association in Bethlehem. She was an administrator of the organization and collected money for its activities. The organization is illegal. You cannot run an organization and collect money without knowing that it is illegal. The accused was aware of her prior activities in an illegal organization and of a pending probation, and should have thought twice before joining this association... It is clear from her history that years of imprisonment did not deter her from engaging in illegal activity. Thus the prosecution seeks a sentence of 4 years in prison plus 24 month probation. There is no reason to show leniency to this defendant.

Defense: I would like to point out that the said association - Al-Nakaa-   was in existence for seven years before it was declared illegal by the court... The prosecution did not cite any evidence that the activities of the association were leading toward violence or any breach of public security... The money collected was for social activities, especially for women and small children; they included daycare centers... In special circumstances, there is room for leniency... The defense will show that this is a special case... The court conceded that despite previous conviction, it is conceivable that the defendant did not know that the organization was banned. The defense requests that, following the verdict, the days the defendant spent in administrative detention - starting Dec. 22. 05 - be counted toward the sentence. Mitigating circumstances in this case: the court is aware that her babyinfo-icon daughter was with her in jail for two years, and has since been taken out of jail and away from her mother. Today, the girl has no father either, since he is in administrative detention... In view of the above, I request the court to release the defendant who has been in custody for 23 months already.

The defendant's last plea: I would like to ask the prosecutor: How can you ignore the social and economic hardships of my people? You refer to the
"jamaa" as an illegal organization. When the army conducted searches in our houses, we opened the door to them, and they never declared our organization unlawful. How am I supposed to know it is prohibited? I was never told it is an illegal organization. As for my conviction: are you aware of the damage it may cause to my daughter? It is well known that a young child needs to spend her first years with her mother. And are you aware of the economic situation in Ramallah? Great damage has been done to the economy there.

[The text reflects the very "free" translation of the interpreter]

Verdict: A. 12 month in jail

              B. 24 months probation (imposed in  court case no. 1037/03) of which the defendant will serve 16 in addition to the sentence, and 8 concurrently. In all, the defendant will serve 28 months from the day of arrest.

For now, the day of detention is Dec. 22. 05. If the prosecution will ask to prove that her [Alyan's] administrative detention was not ordered for the same charges for which she stood trial, the prosecution may submit a request within 30 days.        

         C. 12 months probation, provided that three years from her release the defendant will not commit an offence of the kind she was convicted of in this case.

Courtroom 4

Judge: Levi Shimon (on reserve duty)

Case 5195/05 - Muhammad Abdullah Issa Bachar

Prosecutor: Tali Blank

Defense attorney: Abu Yakub

Interpreter: Ayad Hareb (on reserve duty). We have heard him several times this month, and he is infinitely superior to most other interpreters whose incompetent stutters we got used to hear in this court.

He translates everything and obviously understands what he is translating. He told us that in civil life he is a lawyer. We wish that this would be the professional standard of translation in all the military courts.

There were no relatives present.

Following a plea bargain, the accused admits his guilt: forging official documents (ID card). He is sentenced to 91 days in jail from the day of arrest plus 5 month probation.

Here are cases dealing with membership and activity in illegal organizations:

Case No. 3318/07 -  Madhat Salah Issa Salame, from Anata

Accused of: membership and activity

Procedure: memorandum

Defence attorney: Ahlam Hadad (not present)

The defendant states that his attorney had told him there would be a plea bargain.

Since the attorney did not show up the case was deferred to a later date.

The judge states that the attorney would have to pay the court charges since she did not show up for trial (she came half an hour later when another case was discussed.)

We spoke with the defendant's brother who claimed that his brother was arrested because he was teaching the Koran to kids, which is prohibited.

The trial was postponed  to Tuesday, February 25, 2008

Case No. 4410/07 - Ali Muhammad Yussef Al-Sheik from Bethlehem

Accused of: membership and activity

Procedure: arraignment

Defense attorney: Asmahan Abdel-hadi (from Elarej law firm)

Present in the court: a brother and another man

The accuse denies the charges

The next session: Wed. May 26, 2008 - Witnesses will be summoned.

Case No. 3094/07 - Mahdi Muhammad Rashid Salah Halabbi

Accused of: membership and activity

Procedure: evidence

Defense attorney: Ahlam Hadad

No relatives present in the court

The defense asks the court to order the transfer of the man from a detention facility to jail. He is diabetic and in jail will receive better treatment.

The next session set for Wed. Feb. 26, 2008

Case No. 2471/07 - Ahmed Muhammad Shtiwi El-atsa

Accused of membership and activity

Procedure: reading

Defense attorney: Ahlam Hadad

No relatives present in court

The prosecutor demands to set the next session for this case, including the evidence agreed upon for a memorandum procedure, on Feb. 25, 2008

Case 5683/06 - Taer Nabil Abdulaziz Abda from Kafer-Nimer

Accused of membership and activity

Procedure: memorandum

Defense attorney: Ahlam Hadad

Evidence session set for Wed. Feb. 26, 2008

Case No. 6199/06 - Muhammad Adel Abdel-fatah Abu-Hula

Accused of membership and activity

Procedure: memorandum

Defense attorney: Ahlam Hadad

Family members are present.

This case, together with the previous one, was deferred to Feb. 26, 2008. Both men were accused in the same case.

Finally: Attorney Abdel-hadi told us that several weeks earlier she had asked a female soldier at the court administration for some services she was entitled to. Irate at her insistence, the soldier lashed out at her, calling the attorney "trashy Arab". The attorney filed a complaint and demanded the removal of the soldier. The officer in charge (of the prosecution as well as of the office) only demanded an apology from the soldier. Had the case been reversed and a racist comment were addressed to a Jewish lawyer, the clerk would have been dismissed summarily, said Abdel-hadi.

[and this happens in this legal system which throws the best show in town and in the country, pretending, that all is performed according to law, but does not even bother to respect the basic rules that game - i.e. it does not punish its own people for racist comments]