Ofer - Plea Bargain, Release on Bail
Translation: Marganit W.
We had to wait almost an hour before we were admitted into the court compound. Prison Service officers, who are in charge of opening the gate and admitted lawyers, claimed they could not let us in. "The soldier is responsible for this; we are in charge of security," explained the checker. The soldier took an hour to comply. Perhaps this is mere coincidence. Perhaps this is an attempt to curb our activity. Note that these days we are unable to enter the Russian Compound. It seems that we succeed in getting the system riled - a small consolation.
We are reporting here on two hearings of routine political cases involving Palestinians suspected of belonging to Hamas ("holding a position" and "membership and activity"). The first case is rather long because of an ongoing trial, the second is very short because there is a plea bargain. We also report on a hearing of 8 young men from Ni'ilin who had to wait hours for their court appearance. All save one are released with limiting conditions. The prosecution is trying to put them back in custody.
Judge: Major Shlomo Katz
Prosecutor: Captain Hagai Rothstein
Defense: Atty. Ahmad Safia
Defendant: Aadel Naaman Salim Jenidy - ID. 989439525, Case No. 3131/09
Charge: Holding a position
Mr. Jenidy, answering to the title of Sheikh, is a well-known 57-year old clergyman and teacher from Hebron. The hearing was supposed to be for the summation of arguments, but the prosecution produced new witnesses, asking to revise the indictment and revert to evidentiary hearing. Adding incriminating witnesses, which necessitates revision of the indictment, is a routine subterfuge employed by the prosecution. When a defendant is detained ‘until the conclusion of the proceedings' and prefers trial to plea bargain, the prosecution tries to wear him down by dragging its feet. For the most part, this ruse works, as we see in the next case.
The defense described it accurately: This is a tremendous injustice to the defendant!
The case had already been revised once before. Now, the attorney was informed of the new witnesses for the prosecution only the day before. Worse yet, it transpired during the hearing that there was a THIRD witness... The defense said repeatedly that "the prosecution and the investigation are one and the same." When the judge rejected the prosecution's motion to revise the indictment, Mr. Jenidy was called to testify. The prosecutor confronted him with the witnesses' incriminations claiming that in 2003 he was a senior member of the Liaison Dept. of Hamas in Hebron. Mr. Jenidy claimed that it was a "reconciliation committee" (Sulha), which indeed was linked to Hamas, but was active for only 6 months.
The concluding arguments will be heard on 15.3.10
Defendant: Hazem Adnan Abed Alsamiye Altabhi, ID 927543470, Case No.3164/09
Charge: membership and activity
Defense: Atty. Iliya Theodory
Mr. Altabhi is accused of participating in a course for social activists run by Hamas in 2007. He was arrested two years later, in June 2009 and denied the allegations. He initiated a trial that ended with the predictable sad decision - a plea bargain. The reason being that for half a year, during the evidentiary stage, Mr. Altabhi requested to depose a key witness, a policeman - but to no avail. The attorney says that 5 times a day was set for the testimony: twice the policeman did not show up, twice the judge did not show up and the fifth time, everyone went on a Sports Day... Thus, it was decided to accept a plea bargain.
The indictment was revised in such a way, that Mr. Altabhi could admit "some of the allegations": he participated in a course, but then quit. As the court put it: "Due to the interrupted membership... there are evidentiary difficulties... since the defendant has a clean record and because he is the sole provider of his family..."
A quality of mercy, indeed. However, he has to spend 2 more months in jail (11 altogether), 6-month probation for a year and a fine of 5000 shekels.
The system managed to wear down a defendant who was bent on proving his innocence. They "seared his consciousness" and he capitulated. The future will tell how thousands of such "seared consciousnesses" of Palestinians became a reality.
Judge: Major Etty Adar
Prosecutor: Oren Lieber
Defense: Atty. Lymor Goldstein
Shahab Hawaja - ID 850838764
Ihab Hawaja - ID 850838681
Kosy Nafa - ID 400289931
Barakat Nafa - ID 901414425
Muntasar Hawaja - ID 85038764
Muataz Nafaa - ID 853611606
Muhaned Srur - ID 853887339
Rateb Amira - ID 92172509
The eight are all from the village of Ni'lin, released by the Appellate Court for "lack of evidence" (all except one).
They were arrested following a big demonstration against the Separation Fence in Ni'lin on the Saturday after Sacrifice Holiday on 28.1.09. They were charged with throwing incendiary bottles and burning/setting an army jeep on fire.
The prosecution requests a review of the case in order to revise the indictment based on new evidence by an officer, Elad Losner, which corroborates the testimony of the main witness regarding the jeep - did it burn or did it not?
The defense questions the testimony of the officer, which was given 3 months after the event, very close to the decision by the Appellate Court, which suggests that it was added to bolster the insufficient testimony of the incriminator. Moreover, this is not direct testimony: it is based on 2 company logs, one in print, one in handwriting which contradict each other as to the location of the incident and other details. The testimony itself is essentially a "hypothesis" and a "rumor", because the officer states that he did not see the incendiary bottle.
The decision, which was supposed to be handed down on 14.3.10, was postponed by at least two days. The defendants spent a full day at Ofer for nothing. At least now they are released.
Amira Haas wrote an article, "The "grocery list" of the Shin Bet and the IDF", detailing the tactics of mass incriminations used by the GSS to break the non-violent resistance against the fence.
For more details about the new witness, see Hava Halevi's report:
Meanwhile we heard that the judge rejected the prosecution's request for an "additional hearing".