Ofer - Holding and trading of combat materiel, Danger to Regional Security

Observers: 
Hava Halevy, Hagit Shlonsky
Feb-13-2008
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Translation: Marganit W. 

First the good news: As previously arranged, we went to the court office at the appointed hour and got the three documents we had requested. The last two protocols of the proceedings of Ali Ahmad Ahmad Shmasana, the council member of Katana (whose case was reported by Avital Toch on 5.2.08) and Ali Mustafa Ahmed Hanun, the blind sheikh (also reported by Avital on 23.1.08). We also obtained the indictment against

Faisa Dib Fuda, accused of accepting money from the Islamic Jihad in order to run a kindergarten in Bethlehem. Very instructive.

Waiting for Eliyahu (Elijah the Prophet)

Appeal for harsher punishment in Case No. 1408/08. The trial of Farid Ali Abbed Al-Muhsen Abu Rayen, i.d. nr. 974120743,

and Walid Sabarna, both residents of Beit Omar.

In early December a Palestinian was detained at Tarkumiya Checkpoint on his way to Gaza. Several tons of fertilizer [under the brand name "Urea"] were found in his car. This chemical compound contains 46% nitrogen and is used as a common fertilizer, as well as a popular component in the making of improvised explosive devices. Combined with several other common ingredients, Urea can be used in making explosive charges and belts (see instructions on the internet). In his investigation, the Palestinian said he had obtained the chemical at Beit Omar, at the store of Farid Abu Rayen and Walid Sabarna. Both were consequently arrested on suspicion of trading in combat material.

The two, merchants from Beit Omar (situated in Zone C), had bought the Urea from an Israeli named Eliyahu, and sold it to various customers, naively assuming that minding their own business would enable them to stay out of trouble with the occupation forces, and to provide for their families. But they were wrong. As soon as the Palestinian was arrested at Tarkumiya, the two merchants were detained and interrogated. They admitted having bought the chemical from "Eliyahu" and provided his address. Moreover, the Israeli had brought the material to Beit Omar in his own truck and sold them any quantity they required.

Based on this "admission," charges were pressed against them for trading in "combat materiel", and they were brought to trial. We do not know what the sentence was, but the prosecution saw fit to appeal.

Courtroom 3

The military prosecutor appeals the leniency of the sentence. He claims that the sentence does not fit the crime. The offense is grave, the issue is complex and complicated, posing great danger to the region (i.e. the "territories") and to Israel; effort must be made to prevent hostile organizations from obtaining explosive means and merchants from supplying terrorists with the wherewithal for making explosives.

Attorney Haled objects to the appeal. He states that the merchants were not aware of the injunction against bringing the dangerous material into the territories. Moreover, they purchased it from an Israeli citizen. The defense claims that this is discriminatory: where is Eliyahu? His name and address are known to the court. Why didn't the police arrest HIM for selling dangerous material to "residents of the territories"? The accused did not use this material for any nefarious purpose. They just sold it in their store.

The prosecutor insists there was "danger." The defense objects: the unsold material is still in the warehouse. One defendant's wife was in court; she had showed the security forces the Urea sacks, and the soldiers did not remove or confiscate them. They left the "dangerous stuff" in place until now.

In December 2007 Gaza was under siege. There was no coming or going. We wonder who is this man caught at Tarkumiya Checkpoint with four tons of Urea in his trunk, on his way to Gaza. Did he not know that nobody could enter Gaza, let alone with 4 tons of fertilizers in the car?

Judge Nathaniel Benisho says he needs to consider the case before handing down his ruling, and we realized, that it is not the Urea that poses a threat - since it was left in place at Beit Omar- but the Palestinians who were taken from their homes, interrogated and convicted, and now the prosecution is appealing the leniency of their sentence.