Ofer - Interrogation of Witness, Maltreatment
Translation: Marganit W.
The defense in the trial of Suleiman Salem Issa Adara, ID. 850883216, Case No. 226/08
Judge: Major Shmuel Fleischman
Defense: Atty. Gaby Lasky
Funny as this may sound, Mr. Adara is accused of attacking Gedalya, the security officer of the region, of breaking into his jeep and of breaking his glasses. Just imagine, Mr. Adara, a shepherd from Tawani, attacking with bare hands the jeep of the regional security officer, in the presence of said officer, policemen and soldiers as well as several settlers whose presence will be explained later. Mr. Adara claims that he himself was attacked, injured and needed medical attention. Now that he has recuperated, he is charged with assault. He is not detained and came to court from his home. This is his version of the events:
"There was a group of people in our house, my father, children, my nephews. We heard shouts and knew that we were being attacked by settlers. I went with others to check. The guys with the herd had fled toward the village, but when they saw us they returned. Upon arrival we saw 7 or 8 settlers deployed in the area. Two settlers were coming toward me. One went in the other direction, one came toward me... When he was a meter away from me, he took something out of his clothes and started spraying my face and hair. He pushed me and I fell down, not being able to see. I knew it was gas. I hurt my leg. The guys took me to the nearest house, Hafez's house, gave me water to revive me and called for a vehicle to take me to a clinic. Then the police came. A policeman spoke to me and saw my situation, so they took me to Kiryat Arba in a police car. The police and the Civil Administration were there and someone named Hamudi who spoke Arabic and told me to drink water and "soon it will all be over." The doctor in Kiryat Arba bandaged my leg."
Told in simple language here, this is the saga of abuse, harassment, stolen herds and violence that are the daily experience of the residents of South Hebron Mountain. The court was not surprised, nor did it criticize what the prosecutor later called "those ugly phenomena." Now the search for Nasser began. Why Nasser? Because Gedalya, the "wronged Cossack" from South Hebron Mountain claimed in an earlier hearing that a certain Nasser attacked him, except that the defendant is Suleiman, not Nasser. Still they are looking for Nasser.
Defense: Who in this village is Nasser?
Defendant: There are many people called Nasser in the village. One was there with us, but he is from Sussya.
Q: Have you ever spoken to Gedalya?
A: Yes, when the organizations (Ta'ayush) arrive, they talk to him.
Q: Gedalya says that his attacker was arrested during the melee and brought to the place in the mukhtar'a car. There he was arrested by the police. Where were you arrested on that day?
A: At Hafez's house.
Q: There you were taken by the policemen?
Q: Why did Gedalya claim that you attacked him and broke his glasses?
A: I don't know. I understood from the police that they had a problem with the people. I was far away and have no idea who was there and who dealt the blows.
Q: Who are the settlers that attacked you?
A: A bunch of guys that I don't know.
The defense rested.
Cross-examination by the prosecution:
Prosecutor: Do you know Gedalya?
Defendant: Yes, for more than 2 years.
Q: Are you aware that he is a security officer?
A: So I heard.
Q: You said that he took your sheep and that his behavior is part of the general conduct of the settlers.
A: This is mostly done by residents of Havat-Maon who live in RVs.
Q: Gedalya is part of these ugly phenomena?
A: Yes, I said that he took part in them.
Q: You quarreled with him in the past? Was there some sort of conflict?
I ask you: was there some conflict between a security officer who protects the marauding settlers, those who chase away the shepherds, steal their herds, poison their fields, break their wells, beat them and frighten their children on their way to school and a shepherd from Tawani? Was there such conflict in the past? The prosecutor is looking for a reason why the "wronged Cossack" Gedalya should accuse someone of assault and of breaking his glasses to boot.
A: Gedalya said he had pressed charges against me two years ago.
Q: If there's no conflict, why should he incriminate you for no reason?
Perhaps there was some personal reason? Maybe Suleiman took over a plot of land belonging to Gedalya? Maybe Suleiman frightened Gedalya's kids on their way to school and sicked his dogs on them? Maybe Suleiman set fire to Gedalya's field and burned all his crops and Gedalya is mad at him...
Defense: I object to the question.
Judge: The prosecution maintains that Gedalya identified the witness as his assailant, someone he knows as Nasser. He pointed to you in court as the one who had attacked him. If there is no conflict between you, why would Gedalya identify you as his assailant?
A: I don't know. I did not see him that day.
Again they are looking for a quarrel, when, in fact, it is right in front of their noses.
Judge: So the answer is No? You never needed his help? Did you ever approach him for help?
A: Directly, no.
Prosecutor: I'm telling you that you're lying.
At this point it is clear that the prosecutor has seen too many court dramas on TV. She tells the defendant that he is lying. Perhaps she expects him to burst out crying or ask to convert to Judaism.
Prosecutor: You told the police that Gedalya is a security officer and that when problems arise with settlers, the villagers call him and he comes with the army. How do you explain the contradiction?
Defendant: I personally did not call him. If others did, it is not my responsibility. When he comes with the army, he helps. When the army is not present, he joins the settlers in making trouble for us.
Again the questions arises, Where's Nasser? Where have you been? Where was Gedalya? What was going through his mind?
Prosecutor: In court, Gedalya identified you directly. He also stated that he came in a vehicle and that you physically attacked him. He felt threatened by you and 3 others. Why do you think he picked you out of the four?
A: I don't know.
The examination and cross-examinations are over. As often happens in military courts, the injured party is the defendant and the accuser comes fully equipped with jeep, gun, walkie-talkie and a posse of soldiers or settlers, and in this case he also claims that his glasses were broken.
The defense is still looking for the person who took pictures at the scene. The next hearing will occur if all the witnesses show up. Quite often, summoned witnesses do not make an appearance. In civil trials the responsibility lies with the court, but in these surreal hearings, nothing is taken for granted.
The next hearing set for 25.8.10.