Russian Compound, Jerusalem - Holding and trading of combat materiel, Danger to Regional Security
Translation: Marganit W.
At 11 AM we entered the waiting room without any delays. The session began at 11:30 and lasted two hours.
Judge: Gabriel Malach (on reserve duty, big knitted kippa. Rank (?) [one star]. Looks indifferent and distant; more interested in his cell phone than in reading the files)
Two attorneys representing the detainees: Maamun Hashim, Firas Sabakh.
11 cases were presented; in six of them the detainees were prohibited from meeting with an attorney. As usual, the hearing of the "prohibited" detainees'cases took place twice: first with the attorney (in our presence) while the detainee waits outside, and then, when the attorney (and we) have left the court, the detainee is brought in alone. One of the "prohibited" had no attorney at all.
Regarding four detainees, an agreement was reached between the investigator and the attorney, without any debate: remand extension for 10 days. The judge summed up the cases, dictated to the typist and signed the decision, all within a few minutes.
The 6 remaining cases - some with the detainee's presence, others without [prohibited] - were conducted according to the usual procedure: the attorney requests details about the circumstances of the arrest and about the charges, but never receives an answer, because everything is confidential and still under investigation. The judge is always swayed by the secrecy argument and by the danger posed by the detainee. And yet, the judge often reduces the requested number of days needed for the investigation, as if following a fix formula.
Sultan Suleiman - a young man from Bet-Or Takhta - was allowed to talk with Attorney Maamun, in front of everybody present in the small court. He gave Maamun the phone number of his family. Sultan suffers from asthma and requests treatment. He tells the court that 2 days prior to his arrest he was scheduled for (back?) surgery. He has pains and asks to be transferred to Ofer detention center.
He was remanded in custody for 11 days.
Salem Salakh - a Bethlehem resident. Arrested on 12.1.08, held in Etzion detention facility and interrogated at Ofer. Has a prior conviction and jail sentence, but, according to the investigator, the present detention is unrelated to the past conviction. This time he was incriminated and he is suspected of "involvement with explosive charges." His investigation by the SHABAK (GSS) did not start until yesterday. The investigation, claims the prosecutor, requires that he be remanded for 25 days. Attorney Maamun asks the court to release him under conditions determined by the court, but the judge, relying on the secret report, decides that Salem is irrefutably dangerous and extends his remand for 15 days, until 7.2.08.
Samed Waled Muhammed, from Ramallah region. This is his second remand extension. Prohibited from meeting with an attorney. In response to Attorney Firas's questions, it transpires that he is suspected, among others, of throwing Molotov cocktails... He admits to some of the charges... Was interrogated by the police and by the SHABAK.
The judge's ruling: extension of remand for 12 days.
Ashraf Shamsana - Arrested on 3.1.08. Prohibited from seeing an attorney until midnight. Suspected of participating in Hamas activities. The prosecutor cannot specify what activities because the report is confidential. He claims that this detainee, too, partially admits his guilt. The investigation continues.
Wallid Hodali - a writer from Ramallah - Remand extension for 19 days
We sat with him for a long time in the hallway, while the court discussed another "prohibited", and we had to leave. The situation was surreal, as his attorney, Firas, told us everything about him, in his presence, without exchanging a single word with him. They could not exchange glances because his eyes were blindfolded. He sat with us frozen, immobile like a statue, hardly breathing. He looked about 50, a writer from Ramallah, whose wife, Ataf Alyian, is in jail and until recently, raised their daughter in jail. The girl is now with her aunt.
[Cf. Ataf Alyian's story in previous Ofer reports: 26.11.07 / 8.11.07, as well as on the website of
"Women's Organization for (f.) Political Prisoners" (WOFPP) www.wofpp.org/english/etafi.html ]
Wallid had been in Israeli jail for 12 years until his release 4 years ago.
Then, in October 2007, he was arrested and put under administrative detention. At the end of December he was interrogated at the Russian Compound. He has been prohibited from meeting with his attorney since his arrest. He is suspected of activity in Hamas, but his attorney claims that his client was merely trying to negotiate a settlement between Fatah and Hamas. For this purpose he was in touch with senior members of both organizations.
We enter the court with the attorney. Wallid remains seated like a sphinx.
The judge cites a request for 26 day remand extension. The attorney tries to obtain some information but constantly comes up against the wall of "prohibition to disclose details". In his summation he voices his objection to a third remand. He claims that since his release from jail, his client has not participated in any activity that can be construed as "danger to regional security". His client is a writer who merely tried to initiate negotiations between Fatah and Hamas, and perhaps this is the real reason for his arrest. At the end of the session we left the court with the attorney. Wallid, accompanied by a guard, entered the court. His handcuffs and blindfold were removed at the door. Later we were informed by Attorney Firas that the judge extended the remand by 19 days.
Haled Abu el-Baha [see earlier court report 17.1.08] - remand extension: 22 days.
On Thursday, 17.1.08, we attended his court appearance. We were impressed with his demeanor and with his address to the judge. We reported the case at length. The next day, on Friday, Attorney Maamun appealed the remand. Not only was the appeal denied, but on Sunday, 20.1.08, Haled was declared "prohibited to meet with his attorney."
The same scene recurred with perfect precision: we sat in the hallway talking to Attorney Firas while Haled sat next to us, handcuffed, blindfolded, immobile as a statue, as if he were an inanimate object.
The session with his attorney was conducted without him (he remained sitting erect in his chair); a new detail surfaced: Baha was detained by the Palestinian Authority for 60 days at the end of 2007. He was released in mid-December. The prosecutor, who requested 22 days, argued that the demand for remand extension was moved ahead for "the benefit of the investigation" which is "very complex." He also described the charges as "very serious".
The attorney stated that his client denies any activity in Hamas. He does not admit guilt, and this is why the investigation is not progressing. He reiterated that his client had been summoned to interrogation at Ofer and reported promptly, whereupon he was arrested (12 days ago).