Ofer - Interrogation of Witness, Minors
Translation: Jonathan M.
Today, we decided to attend trials that took place in the afternoon, and so we visited the court between 13:00 and 16:00. However, the time we spend there can be misleading, since the most interesting case that took place was the last one we heard; all the other cases we saw up till then were mostly technical and had to do with scheduling dates.
All the hearings are set for the morning hours and everyone reports appropriately; lawyers, suspects, accused and relatives - all arrive in the morning hours and await trial. Some of the family members wait outside in the cold under a shed, just before the turnstiles; the luckier ones are let in to wait in a special waiting shed inside the compound. Outside is a typical winter day. It's very cold and wet and everybody is bundled up. They wait for hours for a hearing that might last a few minutes; all so they can see a family member and perhaps even exchange a few words with him or her - depending on the judge.
Judge: Tzachi Almog
Prosecutor Sagi Ashkenazi
Mahdi Ahmed Abed Jafal - Case # 1577/07
Defense Counsel: Attorney Osama Odeh
Mahdi was arrested at age 16 and is charged with the preparation and use of a flammable device. He has been in custody for a year.
He does not admit to the charges.
The next hearing for the evidentiary stage is set for 16.4.08
Faiza Deeb Fuda - Case # 6009/06
Defense Counsels: Attorney Amara Ahmed and Attorney Otman.
The Charge: Membership and activity in an illegal organization.
Faiza Fuda has been incarcerated for 15 months. Her story was recorded by Hava Halevi during her remand in custody hearing over a year ago.
The charges against her are very similar to that against Ataf Aliyan, membership and activity in an illegal organization - (see reports from the trial of Ataf Alian in Ofer from 8.11.07 and 26.11.07).
Faiza Fuda, an Israeli Arab from Acre, managed a kindergarten in Bethlehem that was run by the Al-Nakaa women's association. Seven years later the local military commander issued a warrant declaring the organization illegal - a warrant that was never made public. And so the women continued their activity not knowing of the warrant.
During her trial on 26.11.07, Ataf Aliyan stated: "the army never issued a warrant declaring our organization illegal. ...you expect me to gain this knowledge through a dream...that this is an illegal organization..." After Ataf was arrested, the women tried to continue activating the kindergarten, by asking for money from those parents who could afford to pay. And so now the charges against her include raising money from the Islamic Jihad and offering services to an illegal organization.
The attorneys for Faiza Fuda tried to reach a plea bargain, since a full trial takes a long time and there is no dispute over the facts. They tried to reach a deal for 16 or 17 months, but the hearing was postponed a few times for several months, and after each postponement, sentencing is more severe; at the moment the sentence pronounced is 30 months.
How is a woman brought into court
Faiza Fuda was brought in the early morning from the Sharon prison. She waited in the prisoner transport vehicle all morning - a cold January morning. She had a female guard with her, and another guard was standing outside with a dog. In order for her to talk with her attorney, she was moved to one of the infamous detention cells; these were adjacent to the toilet, where prisoners suffering from diaree were brought. Finally she was seated in the courtroom to wait for her hearing which took place at 4 pm and was very short.
The legal hearing will be held on 5.3.08
The Attorneys and the law
An indictment for assisting a hostile organization was brought against an attorney who represented prisoners... If the attorneys are not immune from prosecution for performing their duty, then Palestinian prisoners must be represented by the Public Defense - like in the civil system. We will try to follow such cases.
Abu Al Jraish: Case #6205/06 and Amjad Muhamed Yusef Hamdan: Case # 4226/07
The two cases are handled by Ahlaham Hadad who was sick.
The hearing was postponed to 16.4.08
These cases were only rescheduled; it was impossible to hear the exchange between the judge, the prosecutor and the defense counsel.
But at least the family members had a chance to exchange some words and smiles with their sons in the small court, often following them outside watching their disappearing backs. Mothers, fathers, uncles and brothers waited in wind and rain from 9 am to 3, 4 and 6 pm, so they could exchange a few words with their loved ones.
The next two trials are handled by attorney Illia Teodory, who holds a long and thorough investigation of witnesses in prisoners uniforms. And so we can all follow the process of GSS investigation, the reliability of testimonies, the signing of suspects on confessions they cannot read and the incrimination of others as a result of these investigations.
Sheikh Ali Mustafa Ahmed Hanun: Case #4730/07
Defense Counsel: Illia Teodory
Sheikh Hanun is charged with membership and activity in an illegal organization. Sheikh Hanun is totally blind. The prosecution is trying to connect him to the Hammas through the teaching he conducts in Osara, which is a study and prayer group.
The witness (I couldn't make out the name. I think it was Ata Rahman Mustafa Abed Al Rahman) is first questioned by the prosecutor. During the investigation he continuously denied being a member of Hammas or Osara. "Sheikh Ali Mustafa was not a representative of the Hammas and I was not in charge of him. I was not in charge of anything. I did not read the testimony written by the GSS. I did not know what I was signing. They asked me to sign it, so I did."
The defense attorney is trying to organize the dates of arrest, trial, detention and the additional arrest of Sheik Ali, and to match those with the witness's testimony:
"Sheikh Ali Hanun was under arrest since 20.1.06. He was tried and sentenced on 17.8.06 to 8 months incarceration. He was released and then arrested again on 3.2.07 as a result of your testimony."
At a certain stage the witness answers that he was the Hammas representative in his village after the arrest of Sheikh Ali Hanun. The rest of the investigation has to do with the witness' acquaintance with the Sheikh.
The trial is to continue 16.4.08