Salem - Holding and trading of combat materiel, Sentence
09:20 - 15:10
Strange Wednesday with a bad ending.
At the request of our friend A., a driver at Reihan-Bartaa Checkpoint, we came to observe the trial of his relative, Aref Amarna.
We had not been present at earlier stages of the trial. The present hearing (arguments for sentencing) had been set for January 7, and was brought forward to today at the request of the court.
The defense counsel, Advocate Ahmad Raslan, told us that the hearing would start at 10:00.
We arrived early, at 09:20, and did not find the lists of hearings on the courtroom doors. The court secretariat told us that Aref Amarna’s trial will begin around 09:30 in Courtroom 3, under Judge Major Carmel Wahabi, and it will be the only hearing in that courtroom.
There were computer problems at Salem today, and hearings began late and moved from one courtroom to another.
The defense attorney, Ahmad Raslan, arrived at 10:45, told us that he would call us for the hearing, and went out to talk to Amarna and his parents.
Meanwhile, we entered Courtroom 2, where there was a full panel, headed by President of the Court Lieutenant Colonel Yair Tirosh, with a major and a captain.
We entered in the middle of a hearing, and could not follow.
The defense attorney was Shaker Abushi from Jenin, and the president of the court inquired about his family connections. The attorney is married to the daughter of Advocate Sharab from Tulkarm, and she is also a lawyer.
11:05 – one of the policemen told us to move to Courtroom 1, where Aref Amarna’s trial would take place.
11:10 – the accused and his parents were brought into court.
11:20 – the accused’s hands were cuffed and he was removed from the courtroom, as were his parents.
The judge, Carmel Wahabi, was meanwhile busy in another courtroom with remand extensions.
The defense attorney told us that they had reached an open plea bargain, the accused had agreed to the corrected indictment, but there was no agreed punishment.
The original indictment contained eight items. The corrected indictment had only one charge, composed of three clauses: possession of warlike equipment, trading in combat materiel and membership in a hostile organization.
Among the items removed from the original indictment was one particularly severe charge, regarding firing at an Israeli vehicle of a settler. Because of that accusation, the trial had begun before a panel, which was reduced to one judge after its removal.
Advocate Raslan told us about his work, about false confessions in police and Shabak (GSS) interrogations, and his ideas for improving the defense of accused in military courts and the lack of knowhow of Palestinian legal defenders when it comes to Israeli law.
12:45 – we moved to Courtroom 3. The accused and his parents were brought into the court. In the room were 11 uniformed personnel, including the prosecutor, interpreter and stenographer.
13:05 – Judge Major Carmel Wahabi entered, and apologized to Advc. Raslan for the long wait. The defense attorney asked that, at the end of arguments for sentencing, the accused’s father be allowed to speak. The judge agreed.
The prosecutor, a captain, detailed the corrected indictment to which the accused had confessed, from which it derives that the accused was admitting offences begun when he was a minor and continued up to the day of his arrest. The offences included membership in the Democratic Front since 2002, purchase of a Carlo weapon for 14,000 shekels and possession of 200 rounds of rifle ammunition and three magazines.
The judge asked whether the prosecutor had a qualified opinion about the killing potential of a Carlo. The prosecutor did not...
The prosecutor demanded 36 months imprisonment, and conditional imprisonment at the discretion of the court. The punishment would reflect the accused’s clean record, his saving of the court’s time and the fact that he was a minor during a part of the time of the offences. The prosecutor added that the accused’s partner, Abed, who was also convicted for conspiracy to kidnap, had been sentenced to 45 months imprisonment.
The defense attorney emphasized that there should be differentiation between active and non-active membership in a hostile organization. He noted that the accused was a minor when arrested, after some months of studies at Bir Zeit University.
The judge commented that the accused was born in April 1988, and arrested in December 2006, when no longer a minor.
The defense attorney said that there was a mistake in the accused’s ID card, and that he was born one year later, in April 1989, as was recorded in his birth certificate. He submitted to the judge copies of both documents.
The judge said that this is significant, because according to the ID, two offences were committed when the accused was already no longer a minor.
The defense attorney reiterated the passive membership of the accused in the association as a part of the norm in university.
The judge noted that the accused’s membership began at the age of 13, and not in university.
The defense attorney again emphasized the time spent in university and the change the accused underwent, as a growing youth, after leaving his parents’ home in Yaabed. He lived in Yaabed in a good family, his father has a wholesale supermarket, where the boy helped and was all day under his father’s supervision. He noted that the years of membership prior to the university had done no harm to the state.
The attorney said that the offences of trading, and possession of, combat materiel were widespread in the territory under military occupation. A part of the daily life of youth was soldiers and arrests. Combat materiel was easy to obtain. It is a social norm, even though illegal. The attorney stressed that the accused had made no use of the materiel.
The defense attorney said that a young man can slip up, and the court in such a case has a role in rehabilitation, despite the punishment significance. He went on to cite precedents in which the military court of appeals had ruled on punishments between 8 and 22 months.
He related that the accused was studying at Bir Zeit with his sisters, and his imprisonment would stop their studies because conservatism necessitated supervision of the girls by their brother.
He submitted to the judge a declaration made by the father.
The attorney asked the court to treat the file as an exception, to relate to the accused’s youth, his passive role in the association, his clean record, his confession and the saving of the court’s time – and primarily to the need to let the young man rehabilitate his life and put an end to his family’s suffering. A year’s imprisonment would e suitable punishment.
The father spoke Arabic. He said that he respects the court, and asks that the judge should know he educated his children to study to advance themselves in order to honour the world and their nation. The son had no intention of harming anyone, neither Jew nor Arab, had received a good education, but the situation had influenced him.
The accused apologized for his actions and said that his time in detention had taught him a lesson. He asked for the court’s mercy so that he could continue his studies and life.
The prosecutor did not object to submission of the birth certificate, according to which the accused was born in 1989, not 1988, and did not dispute that the accused was a minor at the time of the offences.
13:55 – recess. The accused and his parents were removed from the courtroom.
During the recess, a surprising dialogue developed with the supervisor of security in the courts. He said that it all derives from control of another nation, which causes the offences heard at the military court. Within the scope of his duties, he tries to respond with a human attitude to everyone..
The defense attorney said that this was the first time the accused’s mother had come to court. On previous occasions only the father had come, and only the father visited the youngster in the detention centre.
The mother is completely broken, cries through the court hearing. She has not left home in a year. The attorney went out to talk to the parents.
14:50 – the accused was returned to the courtroom with two guards. After him come his parents and the attorney.
15:00 – the judge entered and said that there is a fault in the computer system. He would read out a summary of the sentence. The full sentence, with reasoning, would be distributed to the parties as soon as possible.
The sentence: “After hearing the arguments of the parties, and studying the facts in the amended indictment, and the precedents cited, I sentence the accused to 30 months imprisonment starting from the date of arrest on 27.12.2006, and 12 months conditional for five years...” There is a right of appeal.
15:05 – the judge concluded with “a continued pleasant day to all of you.”
The defense attorney managed to tell the stunned accused that he would appeal. He talked to the parents. The mother was weeping torrents. The father and son exchanged kisses through the air.
The defense attorney was very disappointed. He had expected 18-24 months. He told us that he would appeal within a week, and it was reasonable to assume that within a month there would be an appeal hearing at Ofer Court of Appeals.
15:10 – we left in chilly weather and an equally chilly mood. We will try to come to the appeal.