Ofer - Shooting, Holding and trading of combat materiel
We visited Courtrooms 1 and 4 (Roni and Tova) and Courtroom 2 (Avital)
In Courtroom 1 there were 5 trials with three judges (presided by Judge Zvi Lekah).
We observed three hearings in which Advocate Samara was defense counsel for 2 defendants, and the third was represented by Advocate Tawil.
The three defendants were charged with attempts to cause death/shooting at a person.
The session was arguments for punishment.
The families were present. The judges, after hearing the prosecutor and the defense attorneys, retired to discuss the punishments, and returned before the recess.
We observed in Courtroom 4
Judge: Menahem Lieberman
In this courtroom 26 files were discussed.
All the lawyers were dressed in "regulation" gowns. One of the defense attorneys at first appeared without a gown and, at the request of the judge, put one on.
We arrived when the court was in session, and understood that the defendant was not pleading guilty, therefore a date had to be set for continuance. The judge informed the defendant in a clear voice that the date for the evidentiary stage would be February 2009.
He added that if he was to plead guilty, and if there would be agreement between the prosecution and the defense, he could find a much closer date.
A formula that repeated itself three times (from our entry and until the recess) in clear fashion: no connection between defense and prosecution (to reach plea bargain); therefore it is impossible to hold sessions in the near future.
And the defendants will have to wait accordingly (8-9 months) for continuation of their trial.
Between the exit of a detainee and the entry of a new one, Lieberman turned to us and the following dialogue ensued:
-You are from MachsomWatch?
-Do you enjoy your work?
-You (MW women) are shameless, impertinent! Two months ago one of you reported about a trial I conducted. (his anger grows and his voice gets more strident). In the report that I read, she contended that I acquitted the accused on two counts, and on two others I did not acquit him.
The reporter's claim was that apparently, I felt uncomfortable to acquit him on all four charges! What a nerve! Why didn't she check, why didn't she ask?! (or in other words: how can you think this way about me?)
Lieberman's anger at us, after reading the report, was great and uncompromising. On the other hand, we also wrote reports with our impressions of what happens in his courtroom:
"It is indeed problematic," we wrote, "that detainees enter on a conveyor belt, lawyers speak alternatively with one another, with the detainees and with the prosecutor, and it's difficult to fathom who is who, and who defends whom."
Strange that this criticism in our reports did not awaken his response.
Roni answered the judge's complaint maintaining, that apparently the problem is in that we have no written material (protocols) on which to base our reports; perhaps if there was such material, things would look different.
He responded: ask me, the lawyers or the prosecutor. Then you will understand better.
I very much recommend that we make use of the judge's invitation to ask more questions.
More detainees were brought in, and the next two trials after our conversation were accompanied by the same standard announcement by Judge Lieberman: if there will be negotiations between the defense and the prosecution, a date will be found for the trial.
No intercourse, no date - except in 9 months' time.
The attitude to the defense attorneys - apparently following their decision no to go directly to plea bargains with the prosecution - looks tense...
Avital Toch reporting
Judge: Major Shlomo Katz
Conclusion of hearing in the matter of Maher Shehadeh Abed Elhadi Shelalda, ID 906301031, File 2177/08, charge - possession and trade with combat material.
This trial's session is at the evidentiary stage. I arrived at the end of the examination of a witness. There was a debate about the presence and possible arrival of two additional witnesses... The judge explains that, for a trial not to take up a full day of hearings, there is a limit on the number of witnesses that can be summoned to a specific hearing. This file does not require more than two sessions, and so he sets the continuation for 11.6.08, but the defense asks for an earlier date. The judge says that he will be here the day after tomorrow (the prosecutor is duty officer on that day, but a replacement is suggested). The hearing is indeed set for the day after tomorrow.
The judge announces that witnesses 1 and 2 will be summoned for the hearing, tells the parties to be prepared both for the hearing and for the summing up, and that the defense case will be heard as well. And since it concerns the freedom of the detainee, he will know about the outcome the same day.
The next session is scheduled for 28.5.08.
Panel of judges: Dalia Kaufman, Sharon Rivlin, Amir Dehaan
Detainee: Morad Ahmad Rashid Saad, ID 905079307, File 2425/07
Charge: membership and activity (in an illegal organization)
Hearing: evidentiary stage
Defense: Advocate Akram Samara
Prosecutor: Lieutenant Mayan
The hearing that I attended was devoted (until the lunch recess) to the examination of witness # 6 (name heard with difficulty, and may not be exact), Musa Abu Adaha. The witness was released from his handcuffs, and was promised that his testimony will not be held against him in his own trial. He testified in Arabic, and the interpreter was joined in translation by all the Arabic speakers in the courtroom - two of the judges, a lawyer who was present the courtroom and an additional interpreter who occasionally added his bit. With that collective effort it seems that matters were properly clarified.
The examination was run by the prosecutor (woman), who wanted to know about the military unit in which the witness was a member, and about his comrades in the unit.
According to the witness, he and his comrades, including the defendant, were members in the Security Forces - a security unit and not a military unit.
Question: Who is Ramzi Abed? What is his link to the unit you were a member of?
Witness: He was one of the higher officer in the Palestinian Authority and I worked for him in Military Intelligence. We worked for him in the headquarters, Morad (the defendant) and I.
Additional clarification regarding the witness' participation in a shooting attack, but the witness continues to claim that he was asked to participate, but refused and only heard about it on television the day after.
The prosecutor and interpreter quietly read to the witness from the statement he made during his interrogatio and verify that that the signature on the document is indeed his. He does, but claims:
I don't understand Hebrew.
I do not know what was written in the charge sheet.
I do not read Arabic or Hebrew.
A conversation ensues about the exact definition of someone who does not read, neither his own language nor Hebrew (illiterate).
How many years did you attend school?
Until 4th grade.
The prosecutor asks to have the witness declared "hostile."
The judge: in the light of the glaring contradiction between the witness' statements in court and his written statement, the witness is declared a hostile witness.
The continuing examination relates to his participation in the attack (he didn't participate), his knowledge about it (knew, but no details), when they met (doesn't remember), were they armed (didn't see because it was dark), and the witness' statement in the police station:
I didn't understand the policeman who took the statement, because not everything that he asked was in Arabic
There were things that he wrote without asking, therefore I don't know what he wrote.
As for another female interrogator, the witness said that she used words with which he was not familiar with.
As for the translation of the statement into Arabic before his signature, one of the interrogators was in a hurry and told him - sign, and that's it! Another policeman wrote without translating.
And to conclude this examination, the prosecutor asked: so the interrogator wrote what he wrote on his own initiative?