Ofer - Stone Throwing, Interrogation of Witness
Translation: Marganit W.
Morning and Afternoon sessions
Judge: Menahem Lieberman
Prosecutor: Tali Keret-Blank
Defense: Atty. Nery Ramati
Charge: attacking a soldier
Atty. Ramati represented Suleiman Salem Issa Adara, ID. 850883216, charged with an assault on a policeman [border police] on August 1, 2005.
The first witness is Sgt. Salomon Dasta. Since 2004 he’s been working at the Interrogation Center in Hebron, and it was he who took Mr. Adara’s statement. He says his Arabic is “OK” and affirms that he was the one taking the statement. Other than that, he does not remember much. For instance, he does not remember if the interrogation was conducted in Hebrew or in Arabic: in general if he is unable to communicate with a detainee in Hebrew, he switches to Arabic. He does not remember this particular interrogation: in particular, he can’t recall if Mr. Adara was injured when he arrived.
-Defense: But when the interrogation was over, an ambulance was waiting for him outside.
-I don’t remember.
-Mr. Adara says that the entire incident was captured on video by activists of C.P.T (Christian Peacemaker Teams). Did you try to obtain this video?
-Commander Ashkenazi states that the assault that led to the defendant’s arrest consisted of the defendant pulling on the strap of the soldier’s weapon. The soldier himself says this did not happen.
-Maybe I did not read the soldier’s statement; I did not take his statement.
-And you did not ask him about it?
I believe him when he says he does not remember. Since then he has taken statements from hundreds of Palestinians, all telling him of the abuse they have suffered. Why should he remember this particular one?
Next, Mr. Adara testifies, telling his version. He is a farmer from A-Tawani, tilling his land and tending his sheep. His is a simple story. Left wing activists have given him and his brother a map proving that the land belongs to them and is not a military zone. The people from A-Tawani asked the activists to appeal to the Supreme Court against the seizure of their land by settlers. On that same day the brothers, with other villagers, went to their plot with the map. An army vehicle arrived and the soldiers asked them why they were there and what they were doing there. Naturally, when you see Palestinians tending their flock on their land near the village of A-Tawani, the logical question is: What are you doing here, right?
All that time the “Settlers’ Security” (Security officer or a bunch of settlers waiting for the army to do their work for them) stood on the mountaintop. Mr. Adara and his brother spoke to the officer, showing him the map. He took it and drove to “Security”. He came back 20 minutes later, then left again. Half an hour later, another jeep arrived, stopped by the “Security” and drove down to the pasture. Mr. Adara claims that the officer behaved rudely, took the map and ordered them to leave the area. Then he tore up the map.
To show his intent, the officer and the soldiers began beating the sheep and rattling their weapons. Mr. Adara turned to look at his sheep, and then the soldiers grabbed him, threw him to the ground and beat him up. He does not remember how long it lasted. Then they took him to the police station for interrogation, and then by ambulance to the Muhammad Ali Muhtazav hospital.
-Defense: The charge sheet says that you assaulted a soldier. Did you?
Mr. Adara: I did not. The soldiers assaulted me.
-Maybe when the soldiers attacked you, you pulled on the gun?
-No. When he (the officer) gave the order to go, I went. When I turned my back, he attacked me.
-Today, do you cultivate those plots?
-Yes, we still work them.
In the cross-examination, Prosecutor Tali Keret-Blank tried to challenge Mr. Adara’s testimony to the police. She asked:
-Why did they attack only you, and not your brother who also talked with the officer?
-I don’t know why the assault happened like that. You should address this question to the army. They beat my sheep and me.
-At the time, in 2005, wasn’t there a dispute about ownership of the land?
-Dispute with whom?
-With someone. There was a problem with your presence there. It was not evident that you should be there. Why else would you arm yourself with a map and a lawyer?
-The settlers closed down the area by force. Whenever we talked to the army, they would turn it into a closed military area.
-You knew that entry into the area was forbidden, because it was closed military zone, just like before. Had this happened before?
-You told the police that you would not budge from there, right?
-It’s my land, how can I leave it? We have permission to work it.
Thus it went on: an attempt to undermine a straightforward testimony of vile and violent abuse by armed soldiers in the service of the settlers against the lawful owners of the land, using a memo written in Hebrew by an interrogator, but translated from Arabic. The translation was not only of the language but also of the world-view. Mr. Adara answered many question by reiterating the obvious: “this is our land and we cultivate it. I am a shepherd and this is my land and I want my flock to graze there.”
The next witness was Mr. Adara’s brother. He repeated the main arguments from his point of view. The prosecutor tried to challenge his testimony with questions like: who stood behind whom, and when did x talk to y, who saw what and who interrupted whom… but the picture was clear to me and there was nothing new. The allegedly attacked soldier was not summoned to testify. Perhaps he will show up at a later date.
The judge awarded the witness Naim Issa Adara 280 shekel expenses, which he can get from the bursar at the Civil Administration. I wonder how Naim Adara will get to the bursar in Bet-El, how many checkpoints he’ll have to cross, and how many times they’ll turn him back, what documents will he need to present to show his eligibility etc.
Summation hearing was set for 20.2.11 at 09:15.
Islam Salah Dar Ayoub, ID402197834 - Case No.1217/11
Charge: throwing rocks
Judge: Daniel Kefir (res.)
Defense: Atty. Nery Ramati
A 14 year old boy, arrested on 23.1.11 at 2 AM and brutally dragged from his home in Nabi Salah, a village of about 500 inhabitants, actually 4 large families. The biggest is the Tamimi family, who will play a pivotal role in the military court because a child from the Tamimi family, together with 3 other kids, 14 and 15 years old, has incriminated many of the villagers. Why and how did this happen?
Take Islam, for instance: after being taken from home, he was kept bound and blindfolded in an army jeep from 2-9 AM. Then he was taken to an interrogation. Atty Lymor Goldstein tried to see him before the interrogation began, but was denied access. After 5 hours of interrogation he was finally permitted to see the child. I asked the father if his son was allowed to go to the bathroom or given some food during those hours. In my presence he asked the child, who had almost fallen asleep in the dock (he and two other kids had been waiting for the trial since morning, and it was now almost 4 PM), and the boy said no, he was not allowed to go to the bathroom and was not given anything to eat until the interrogation was over.
The military judiciary system, apparently, has not heard of the requirement for a family member or a social worker to be present during interrogations.
We are sure to hear more about this village, because during those long hours the kid must have told the interrogator everything he wanted to hear and more.
In Nabi Salah, too, there are demonstrations against the separation fence, and the children are accused of having thrown rocks.
The prosecutor stated, that lately there had been testimonies of children throwing rocks not only on the wall but also on people, which, naturally, justifies the “risk factor”.
It was extremely cold in the court. The floor was wet and rain seeped from the roof. Nery Ramati said: There is no terror now, so they bring in children. This seems to be the case: the mill has to work continuously. Lately, more and more children are brought before the court, and they get younger and younger.
Islam’s father told me that so far 15 people from the village had been detained. Islam’s younger brother, 11 years old, was arrested the day after Islam’s arrest and taken to Binyamin Police Station. (watch video) The next day, the father went there, signed something and took his son home. They must have realized that an 11 year old is not fit to stand trial. But 14 year olds can be prosecuted and punished. *
There will be more detainees as a result of the minors’ incriminations. In this way, a small village like Nabi Saleh can be effectively dismantled. Apparently this is the aim here.
The next hearing is set for 14.2.11.
*Our friend Hana A. from “Yesh Din” came to the police station at Binyamin on 25.1.11 to lodge a complaint. She reports: I saw the 11-year old younger brother at the station. I think that the policeman in charge finally realized that it was unconscionable to arrest an 11-year old. They waited for the father to arrive, in part, apparently, in order to deliver a “pedagogical lecture” before releasing the boy. By the time he was released, Karim, a B’tzelem researcher, and Na’ama, also from B’tzelem, came to depose them about what had taken place at the station. It was heartbreaking to see the boy, a mere child, and his father so rattled. One of the policemen came out to chat with us and told us that the child’s brother had also been arrested. Karim concluded that the child was arrested because his brother had thrown rocks. He said it aloud, and that provoked the policeman to burst out angrily,“Is that what I said?” he asked harshly and his eyes expressed both vulnerability and hostility. He turned around and walked in.