Ofer - Maltreatment
Translation: Marganit W.
The Wonders of Military Time.
It is 14:00. At the entrance to the court, inside the wall but outside the fences and the turnstiles, a young man asks us if we are from "Human Rights"? What's the problem? A trifling matter.
At 10 o'clock this morning he came to the court compound with a receipt proving that he had paid a 1000 shekel fine for his brother Ashraf Muhtaseb. At Ofer office someone must sign the receipt and hand it back to him. He will then fax the receipt to the prison where his brother is held, and then the brother, Ayman Muhtaseb, will be released. Indeed, someone named Rafiq took the receipt and said, wait a minute. 4 hours went by, and it is now 14:00. Every half hour he asks about the signature and is told, "5 more minutes". The man is not allowed to enter the compound. We promised to help him once we're in. (We apparently succeeded: we spoke to two interpreters and later to an officer from the main office. When we left, the man was no longer there. Perhaps he did get his receipt with the signature.) He spent four hours waiting. How long does it take to sign a
receipt and take it back to the gate? But who cares about the natives? Let them wait.
Next we, too, experienced some of the wonders of the army's concept of time.
It is 14:00, and we are waiting at the gate. There is nobody there. We rattle the gate and the iron nets, we shout - but no response. Is there an invisible person looking at us through the dark opaque windowpanes enjoying our consternation in front of the closed gate? What's going on there? It's two in the afternoon already!
14:10 - We phone the PR officer. After 5 minutes a soldier arrives and lets us in. Miraculously, a voice is heard from behind the opaque panes: Get them out! So out we go. We're allowed to call the PR officer again, but to no avail. There are rules saying we have to wait for a soldier to let us in.
14:15 - a girl soldier comes and lets us in, explaining that those are the procedures. Only a soldier can give her an order to let us in and perform the search. The soldiers are on their lunch break.
-How long is their lunch break?
-From 12:00 to 13:30.
But now we're finally inside and listening to an edifying exchange during the trial of Shukri Fahr Adin Masoudi.
Judge: [I didn't get his name]
Defense: David Barhum
Masoudi is charged with hitting Border Policemen near the Cave of the Patriarchs on two occasions.
Apparently the policeman knew Masoudi, because they demanded he show them
that he had no drugs in his pockets. A scuffle ensued. The defense indicates that the search was not done properly or legally and bordered on police brutality. When Masoudi was brought into custody, his body was covered with bruises and he complained that the policemen had roughed him up. Still, he was charged with attacking the police. Despite evidence that recorded in the file that the policemen beat him, the officers involved denied the allegations and, as the attorney told me, "tried lamely to explain away the bruises."
This, unfortunately, is a routine occurrence in this part of the world.
Here is the legal aspect of the case:
Since there were mutual accusations of brutality - according to the defense - had the case been tried in Israel, in order to try him, the Internal Police Investigation Office would need to testify that they approve the indictments against Masoudi. In
order to prevent a situation where the state charges someone with attacking the police and at the same time charges a policeman with attacking a civilian, there exists a procedure called "approval for prosecution". For some reason, this case did not contain the approval of the Internal Police Investigation Office. Apparently, no one at the military prosecution bothered to obtain one. The defense claimed that because there was no approval, the charge sheet is flawed. The prosecution countered with "we don't need this document at all, because we are not in Israel." The defense attorney stood his ground and when the session began, the military prosecutor agreed to obey the "approval of prosecution"
ruling and make the charge sheet against a resident of the territories contingent on approval by the Internal Police Investigation Office.
This is an important precedent. In the future, Palestinians accused of attacking policemen while claiming police brutality would not be charged without prior approval by IPIO, which will be obliged to examine the allegations; the military prosecution won't be able to detain people at will, and will need to run the case by the IPIO first. If the Palestinian's claim is found to be true, he cannot be charged with attacking the police.
I am surprised, the attorney said, that I am the first to raise this point in a military court. He claimed that there is a ruling by the state prosecution that obliges every prosecutor to tell the judge at the sentencing stage how many days the defendant has been in detention.
This ruling obtains in Israel, says the judge. This is not Israel. This is the territory. The rules here are different.
The verdict (resulting of a plea bargain, of course) took into consideration the revised indictment, the "irrelevant" past of Masoudi and the fact that he saved the court precious time.
Sentence: 7 months in jail, including time served since his arrest and 3 months suspended sentence for 3 years.
Golda Meir said that she could perhaps forgive the Arab for killing us, but she could never forgive them for forcing “us” to kill them. By the same token, we should feel pity for the policemen who beat up Masoudi, but perhaps they can find consolation in the jail sentence he received.