Ofer - Plea Bargain, Holding and trading of combat materiel
Translation: Marganit W.
Judge: Major Hilit Bar-On
Prosecutor: Captain Adi Noi
Defense: Tawhid Sha'aban
Defendant: Fadi Amru - Case No. 4540/08 - ID. 907389530,
an engineer from the village of Dura near Hebron.
Charge: membership and activity in an unauthorized association
Administrative detention until 6.4.09 to coincide with the legal procedure.
Sentence: One year probation for 5 years, plus 500 shekels fine.
The defendant's mother and his wife were sitting quietly behind us, smiling at the son/husband without talking; toward the end they cried silently.
Amru is accused of "membership in an unauthorized association in 2004-06.
The association in question is "Kutla Islamiya" the Hamas students' organization.
The two sides have reached a plea bargain consisting of a "revised indictment" and an agreed upon penalty. On his part, the defendant rescinded his denial of the allegations.
The prosecution declared "evidentiary difficulties in the case"; time has elapsed from the commitment of the felony and the arrest. There were personal circumstances besides: the defendant has a sick baby.
[It is important to note that "pleas bargain" is a common procedure in trials of Palestinians in the occupied territories. It benefits the military courts system whose aim is to convict as many people as possible in the least amount of time. Plea bargains save time and bear the semblance of justice.
The Palestinians, on their part, relinquish the full legal procedure which
might exonerate them, admitting to a lesser felony that carries a lesser
Judge: You accept the charges?
[Interpreter translates into Arabic]
Defendant: standing, his face and body expressing discomfort and hesitation, which prevent him from responding for long seconds. His attorney urges him to speak, and finally he utters one word: Halas! (enough), which epitomizes the miserable condition of a man bereft of liberty and self respect facing his weeping mother and wife.
When it was time for sentencing, we were sure that Fadi Amru would be released,
perhaps with a penalty or an alternatively 2 weeks in jail. The attorney was about to hand the mother a receipt for the fine to be paid, when the (hitherto unmentioned) "administrative detention" was uttered. The attorney took back the receipt from the mother, protesting to the judge that there's no sense paying a fine if the defendant is not released. The judge accused the prosecutor of neglecting to bring up the administrative detention, stressing that these are two unrelated parallel procedures.
The prosecutor countered that the total separation of the two procedures assures that the defendant would not be released by mistake.
The attorney told us later that Fadi Amru had already served 9 months in jail for the same offense. He was arrested again about 5 month ago, incriminated by 2 witnesses who testified that he continued to be a member of the same organization. (Amru denied the allegation, but willy-nilly agreed to the plea bargain.)
We further learned that he had graduated with honors from an Engineering school in London and had worked with European firms in the West Bank. This case is one of many; people at the height of their careers, with families, who contribute to society, are cruelly and fatally neutralized. When thousands of the best and brightest of Palestinian society are thus eliminated, one is reminded of the term "Politicide" coined by the late
Prof. Baruch Kimmerling and used in his book by the same title.
We were about to leave, when we noticed a couple in the waiting courtyard who looked different (secular) from usual relatives waiting there; we decided to speak to them. By the time they finished their story, they were summoned to the courtroom. So we joined them.
Background: the couple were the wife and brother of prisoner Iyad Kamel
He has been in jail for four and a half years.
Over a year ago, right after the sentencing, he appealed the decision, but only now has the appeal come before the court.
He was arrested a few days before the birth of his son, who is almost two years old and knows his father only as a photograph. "The child thinks that "baba" (dad) means a picture. Once," his wife tells us in English, "I brought the child to visit his dad in jail. It was terrible. They would not let me see my husband with the baby. It is forbidden, so the guard took the child, grabbing him like an object and brought him to my husband. The child was frightened and cried bitterly (since he did not recognize the man as "baba".)
A panel of three judges: Lieutenant-Colonel Nethanel Benishu and 2 judges on reserve duty whose names escape us.
2 prosecutors: Shlomy Schneider and a female prosecutor who did the pleading
(whose name escapes us).
Defense: Attorney Ossama Odeh
Prisoner (appellant): Iyad Kamel - Case No.4122/08 - ID No.9901129098
Iyad Kamel was convicted of complicity in trading in combat materiel and in a terrorist attack during the second Intifada in 2001-02. Only the eighth count of indictment - aiding and abetting (i.e., providing food, cigarettes and rides) wanted men - occurred shortly before the arrest.
Judge to Defense: What do you want?
Defense: I want him released today!
Judge: Then convince me.
The defense enumerates the mitigating circumstances:
- Time lapse: most of the charges refer to offenses committed 7-8 years prior to the time of arrest.
- The last charge (No. 8), committed shortly before the arrest, is a technical offense, proving that the appellant had long ceased all hostile activity.
- He was convicted based on his own admission. There were no witnesses.
- He is a family man now. It is inconceivable that he would revert to terrorist activity.
- In the shooting charge, there are no details about his part in the incident, when it took place, from what distance.
- Other perpetrators who were convicted, were sentenced to only a few
months in prison.
The judges request that the prosecutor cite precedents on which they could base their decision. She complies.
In fact, in most sessions we attend precedential decisions are central to the judge's decisions.
The judges' decision will be handed to the defense by the end of the day.
When Iyad is ushered out, his wife weeps silently, wiping her tears.
Later in the evening, we find out that, as expected, the appeal was rejected.
Iyad Kamel will spend additional two years in jail, and his son will get to know his father only when he is four.