Ofer - Release on Bail, Stone Throwing

Observers: 
Hava Halevi, Hagit Shlonsky (reporting)
12/01/2010
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Morning

Translation: Marganit W.

Upon arriving we discovered that Beituniya Checkpoint was again closed, as was the case two weeks ago, so that families of detaineesinfo-icon and their attorneys who live in the territories could not attend the hearings. Those coming from Israel, however, use a different entrance, on the Israeli side of the Checkpoint. At the military compound we saw only security personnel and one attorney from Jerusalem who does not usually appear in this court. Later in the day it transpired that Palestinian attorneys who do not live in the Occupied Territories and some Israeli supporters had staged a demonstration on the Palestinian side of the court entrance. The attorneys went on strike and did not appear in court out of solidarity with their colleagues and with the family members who were detained at the checkpoint.

After some delay detainees were brought into 3 courtrooms and the remand hearings were conducted without the presence of the attorneys.

Courtroom 7

Judge Captain Naphtali Shmulevitch conducted speed-hearings of remand extensions: 7 detainees in less than 30 minutes.

In one case the judge moved for the defense and with the prosecutor's consent released the suspect on 750-shekel bail. The rest of the detainees requested and received one -week delay to secure legal representation. Among those was a detainee who had already spent 40 days in the Russian Compound. His investigation was complete and a charge sheet had been filed.

Courtroom 5

Judge: Major Arye Durani

There are 51 cases in the docket for today's hearing. About an hour and half of the morning session was taken by 2 cases of minors:

Muhamad Ahmad Deeb Mazlah - ID. 859622367, Case No. 1063/10

Ahmad Mazlah - ID. 854677846, Case No. 1062/10

The two seem to be brothers, 14 and 15 years old. They look younger. The oversize prison uniform is way too big for them. Their feet are shackled. Three adult detainees seated next to them try to comfort the minors. The interpreter, too, goes out of his way to explain the judge's words to them.

The two minors were brought to Ofer six days ago for remand extension. They were represented by Atty. Abu Ahmed who obtained a deferment from the judge so he could examine the material. Today Abu Ahmed is absent because he is taking part in a solidarity strike to protest the closureinfo-icon that prevents attorneys and families from crossing. The prosecutor states that in the investigation the defendants confessed to throwing rocks, and the prosecution has witnesses who incriminated the two.

The judge dictates a long decision (lasting almost 40 minutes), describing his deliberations and the  moral dilemma he is facing: a minor who cannot plead for himself, no attorney or family members present, no due process....In view of decisions made by the Appellate Court where the defense did not attend the hearing... The need to find a balance between civil rights and security considerations... And in light of earlier decisions by Captain Durani himself regarding similar situations where attorneys were detained at the checkpoint, hampering the work of the military court and law enforcement authorities... in which decisions he stated that "this is not the way the Jewish people should conduct trials and mete out justice...."

Having thus expounded his doubts and misgivings, the judge ordered a 48-hour remand extension, allowing the defendant 3 phone calls to arrange his defense, and to "allow him to speak to his family, which is the source of his moral and mental strength..." The judge also fined the absent defense 1000 shekels. This decision applied to both minors.

The judge's moral misgivings are not necessarily a reflection of his sensitivity or the court's enlightenment. They reflect above all the mode, the procedures and the conventions that govern law enforcement in the Occupied Territories. An impartial judge would have released the minors (perhaps with some restrictions that would allow follow-up) who in all probability were incriminated by two other minors who took part in the incident. It is our contention that the minors were brought to the holding center without their parents, or a social worker, and that they were interrogated in methods designed to extract admission and incrimination, with no regard to their tender age.

Postscript:

On Monday, 18.1.10, in Courtroom 2 of the Juvenile Court, the two Matzlah boys were brought before Judge Atzmon. We were not admitted in court. Hearings involving minors are conducted behind closed doors. In a phone conversation with Atty. Abu Ahmad, who represented the two, I learned that the two were ordered "detained until the conclusion of the proceedings." When I voiced my disappointment, the attorney told me, "This is was what the children wanted. They preferred to be detained because they get bored at home." Perhaps he was joking, which I did not get. At any rate, it was not a very good joke.

The next hearing was set for February (either 14 or 17 - we'll find out).