Ofer - Holding and trading of combat materiel
Military Court for Appeals
Translation: Marganit W.
We came to observe the appeals proceedings of the verdict in the case of Araf Amarna, given at the military court in Salem on 2.1.08 (See earlier report), but we stayed for another appeals case.
10:30 - We arrived at the compound and talked with Araf's parents. To make sure they arrive in time, they had left Yabed at 4:30 AM, arriving at Ofer at 6:30. They reported no delays at the checkpoints on the way.
The mother of another detainee asked for our help. She and one of the defendant's grandmothers were allowed to attend, but the other grandmother was left waiting outside. A policeman explained that only 2 relatives are admitted, but if the defense attorney gets the judge's permission then the other grandma would be allowed in the court.
The appeal we came to attend was set for 11:00, but the defense attorney Ahmad Raslan, was late coming from his village, Iblin, in the Galilee.
11:00 - Araf Amarana and his parents are brought to the courtroom.
Present in court: prosecutor, interpreter, typist and two policemen.
They allow Araf to talk with his parents, but then they are ushered out of the courtroom because another trial has pre-empted theirs.
11:20 - Attorney Raslan arrives, but in the meantime another trial is in progress.
Judge: Colonel (reserves) Arye Noah.
Prosecutor: Lieutenant Shlomi Schneider.
Case No. 1591/08 - Samr Muhammad Nimer Hadarma,
ID. No. 985197698
Defense: Attorney Ilya Theodori
The prosecution appeals the conditional release of Samr Hadarma and requests remand to the conclusion of proceedings.
The defendant is a middle-aged man, dressed in civilian clothes.
A contractor by profession, he built a school in Ramallah and today serves as its academic administrator on behalf of Al Hasna Association, which is headed by his wife.
The defense points out that the defendant has been released on bail because Al-Hasna is not part of Hamas, and none of its members have been arrested. The defendant collected money for the construction of the school, mostly from the Prince of Dubai. As a constructor, he built the school, supervised the works and the purchase of material, and now runs the school, which serves 200 students (among them children of senior PA officials).
He could not possibly be a member of Al Hansa, which is a women's organization.
The prosecutor claims that Al Hansa is connected to Hamas. He explains that the organization is named after a woman who sacrificed her sons in the war against the Persians, thus becoming a myth and a symbol of Jihad [I could not help thinking of our myth of Hannah and her seven sons].
The drive to collect money for the school was under the auspices of several agencies that have ties with Hamas. The defendant participated in meetings with those organizations. His house and his computer contained various Hamas materials. The prosecutor cites a previous indictment and the fact that the defendant was previously held in administrative custody.
The court that released the defendant on bail, the prosecutor claims, did not sufficiently weigh the severity of the evidence.
The judge points out that attention should be paid to the indictment and not to extraneous documents, adding that the administrative custody is irrelevant to the present trial because it has no evidentiary significance. On the other hand, the evidence raises questions about the earlier court decision to release the defendant under certain conditions.
The defense claims that it is not clear how the incriminating material found in the defendant's home and computer got there in the first place.
The judge comments that even in cases involving pedophilia, materials found in homes and computers are accepted as evidence, even when the defendants claim they do not know the source.
The discussion continues focusing on the documents, their relevancy and the various activities of the defendant. Often, the judge makes comments to both sides, especially to the prosecutor, whom he reminds to act in accordance with his status as representative of the military prosecution.
The prosecutor insists on detaining the defendant till the conclusion of the proceedings, since he has long served as senior official of an organization with ties to Hamas. He cites precedents in similar cases.
The defense points out that this is a criminal charge and the ties of Al Hansa to Hamas and the defendant's knowledge of those ties need to be proved. He stresses that the court released the defendant with a small deposit, only 1000 shekels, and did not see fit to detain him until the appeal.
The defendant is present in court today, and he is willing to report to future hearings to prove his innocence.
The judge asks how old the defendant is (48), how many children he has (5, between the ages of 9-22; he has one grandchild) and whether his wife is detained (she is not).
The judge will give his ruling later, probably not today. The decision will be delivered by another judge (to spare him another day of reserve duty).
12:20-12:30 - a short break. The judge stays in court, looking over the typed material.
Case No. 1143/08 - Araf Ahmed Araf Amarna, ID No. 946593894
Defense: Ahmad Raslan
Interpreter: Private Sayid Ghanem
Typists: Corporal Maya Fleishman and Private Luba Shlanev
Araf Amarna pleaded guilty (in a revised indictment) to membership in the Democratic Front from 2002 on, to purchasing a Carl Gustav rifle for 14,000 shekel and to possessing 200 M16 bullets and three cartridges.
The verdict - 30 months in jail - was given at the Salem Military Court on 2.1.08, without providing the judicial grounds.
Attorney Raslan appealed the ruling, but the hearing that was set for 27.1.08 before Justice Lieut. Colonel Benisho never took place because the court had not been supplied with the grounds in time. Another date was set, 13.2.08 but it too was cancelled twice because it snowed that day.
The judge berates the attorney for being late, and the latter apologizes.
The judge wants to know the difference between the original appeal statement and the revised one sent to the court. The revised statement reached the court only yesterday, but both judge and prosecutor have already read it.
The defense points out that the original appeal did not contain grounds, and that inexplicably for 25 days they had not been supplied by the earlier court.
The judge uses the metaphor of shooting an arrow and then marking the bull's eye, but adds that the defense's precedent does not apply.
In essence, the defense argues, that there is no proper proportion between Araf's punishment and that of Nidal, his collaborator, who received a 45 days sentence. Araf was a minor at the time of the crimes and, while in detention, Nidal recruited him. Nidal was also charged with an attempt to kidnap and to cause death. Araf has no criminal record.
Moreover, his acceptance of the revised indictment saved the court time.
The prosecutor repeats the grounds for the charge, stressing the appellant's prolonged membership in the Democratic Front (from age 13), his purchase of a rifle and possession of ammo. He cites precedents.
The judge surmises that there were reasons for leniency in Araf's case, unlike Nidal's. The defense claims that it was not enough lenient.
He suggests reducing the jail term while increasing the monetary fine, thus enabling the defendant to go back to school.
The decision will be handed on another day by another judge.
The defense asks to fax him the decision so he can apprise the appellant and his parents.
13:30 - The session is over. The parents wonder about the outcome. This time the attorney does not venture a guess.
The typist gives us the protocol of the present hearing. She cannot provide us with the transcript of the previous hearing because it was done by another typist.
To our surprise, another attorney's name appears on the protocol!