Ofer - Plea Bargain, Stone Throwing

Observers: 
Ofra Ben Artzi (reporting) - guest Matanya Ben Artzi
05/08/2009
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Afternoon

Translation: Marganit W.

Observing and reporting: Ofra Ben Artzi  (accompanied by Matanya Ben Artzi)

We attended a two-hour session in Courtroom 2 and were surprised to find out that most of the detaineesinfo-icon were residents of the village of Silwad, near the settlement of Ofra. From conversations with the families and with Attorney Akram Samara, we learned that 110 residents of the village are now sitting in jail. Half of them were arrested in the last 6 moths. Attorney Samara reports that there is a similar high number of detainees/prisoners - including minors - from the refugee camps of Jilasun, near the settlement of Bet El, and from Qalandiya.

Judge: Major Shlomo Katz

Prosecutor: Captain Orit Pargi

Defense: Atty. Akram Smara

Suspects:

1. Ahed Abd Elhamid Hamed, ID No. 851074690 - Case 3370/09

2. Mahmud Ahed Muhammad Hamed, ID. 852371152 - Case 3375/09

3. Kamel Abd Elhamid, ID. 949956536 - Case 3376/09

4. Odi Omar Hamed, ID. 852241884 - Case 3377/09

All four are suspected of "attempted homicide". If they are charged with such a serious offence, how come the suspects were arrested at home at night, while sleeping soundly in their beds, as described by the father of one of the suspects. According to his report, the army broke into the house, damaging the balcony, shattering windowpanes etc. This father is a contractor who built the settlements of Rimonim and Ofra. He is a sick man whose detained son is the family breadwinner. The family is in dire financial straits. An indictment was supposed to be presented in court, but the  attorney requested a postponement, so he could read it and respond. The Arraignment session was set to the end of October, a delay dictated by Ramadan and the Jewish high holidays.

In Israel/Palestine, not only the land and the water, but also time, are distributed differently: it is a jungle where might is right; might, however, is only temporary.

Madhat Mussa Garadat, ID No. 852011568 - Case No. 3063/09

He is accused of "throwing objects at people or at property".  This is his first arrest and he has been in detention for two months. He is represented by Atty. Haj Mufid.

The defendant is a young man studying medicine in Cyprus. He comes from Kfar Sa'ir in the South of Hebron Mountain (according to his mother). The usual routine now takes place: a detainee has to decide on the spot if he should capitulate and admit to charges he has so far denied and accept a plea bargain, or insist on his innocence and lose liberty and money by engaging in dangerous mind games with the GSS.

Judge: Do you admit your guilt?

Madhat argues angrily with his attorney, then shouts at the judge: What should I say?

Judge: Do you want a trial? There will be expenses....

Madhat, angry and resentful, accepts the charges.

In his decision the judge says: I will allow the accused to recant his denial.

Do you get it? The "magnanimous, humane" judge allows the defendant to obliterate himself, the little self-respect he has left, his will, his conscience, his selfhood. For two months he has been proclaiming his innocence only to helplessly break down today in court. The esteemed judge deigns to permit him to break down, to debase himself in public. The judge must have been very pleased with himself. He has "seared the conscience" of another Palestinian. For us, this is another instance of the ‘banality of evil' perpetrated at the Ofer Military Court.

Sentence: 3.5 months in prison from the day of arrest (a balance of 6 weeks), 3 years probation for a year, and a 2500 shekel fine or two and half months in prison.

We spoke to his mother after the trial. The family cannot pay the fine. There was a fierce debate in court regarding the sum. Again, we raise the serious question of finesinfo-icon imposed on Palestinian families. These fines, on top of the imprisonment, are meant not only as an economic hardship for an already impoverished Palestinian population, but as a means of financing the system that entraps, punishes and imprisons them. One day the state of Israel will be required to compensate them for this iniquity.

The Hearing of the Bil'in Detainees

Because of the widespread arrests in Bil'in , the hearings are fast and furious. This is the second hearing; the first was yesterday and several others are scheduled for tomorrow and for next week. There is a concerted effort by the defense to wrest the ‘Struggle for Bil'in' from the hands of the army, which is bent on quashing it.

There is great interest, both in Israel and abroad, in the non-violent struggle of the residents of Bil'in against the separation wall and the land grab it gave rise to.

Here is a link to Wikipedia about the Bil'in campaign:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bil'in

2 years ago, the inhabitants of Bil'in appealed to the High Court of Justice and WON! The state reneged on its obligation to carry out the HCJ's decision to change the location of the wall. This is prolonged ‘contempt of court.'
Here are the links:

http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/900705.html

For a documentary film showing the popular, non-violent demonstrations (with the participation of Israelis and international volunteers) that have been taking place every Friday for the last 4.5 years see the link:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IS229YmbKwU&feature=related

In the last few weeks, the IDF has been conducting nightly raids on the village. 18 inhabitants, including minors, are currently in custody. The army makes no secret of its intention to break the civil resistance of the inhabitants of Bil'in, which has gained fame and commendation. Here is a link to a documentary about such a raid:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ko9uoacB3YE&feature=player_embedded

Proof positive of the army's purpose was spotted on the prosecutor's desk. Yael Bar Yosef is responsible for the Bil'in case, even when other prosecutors present in court. We saw a hefty brochure whose white cover bore an inscription in large black letters: Bil'in Incriminations - Bil'in demonstrations.

The brochure contains photos of the demonstrations to be used in the incriminations of the detainees.

Judge: Major Amir Dahan

Prosecutor: Major Yael Bar Yosef

Defense: Atty. Neri Ramati (from Gaby Lasky's office).

Defendant 1  Muhammad Abd Alkarim Mustafa Alhatib -

ID. 851611053

Defendant 2 - Issa Mahmud Issa Abu Rahma - ID. 954903647

Defendant 3 - Abdulla Ahmed Issa Yassin - ID. 950836586

Defendant 4 - Haled Shwachat Alrezek Alhatib- ID. 911065944

Defendant 5 - Mustafa Shwachat Abed Alrazek Alhatib - ID. 853889236 - minor

Defendant 6 - Muhammad Shwachat Abd Alrazek Alhatib - ID. 85475044 -  minor

Defendant 7 - Abdulla Mehmed Ali Yassin - ID. 854414786 - minor

Seven detainees - 3 of them minors, about 16 years old,- were kidnapped from their homes in the middle of the night, on 3.8.09. Their first hearing took place yesterday, 4.8.09.

Here are the main points of the hearing:

The prosecution sees these various files as "one case," as attested by the brochure of incriminations on the prosecutor's desk. The army is quite open about its objectives. According to the defense, it all started with the arrest a month ago of two 16 year olds. During their interrogation they incriminated other minors and adults, including the present detainees. There is now, he claims, "ample opportunity to arrest the entire village." But specifically targeted are the members of the Committee Against the Wall, including  Defendant No. 1, Muhammed Alhatib, who is the secretary of the village council. The attorney was particularly harsh in his condemnation of the arrest of minors, citing Israel's "Revised Youth Law", Conventions and International Law.

In the hearing of the four adult detainees, their requests for release or alternative procedures were rejected. The judge found "blatant, varied and solid" substantiation to the "charge of throwing rocks". Only in the case of defendant No. 1, Muhammad Alhatib, one of the leaders of the struggle, the judge declared him "free of charge" because of misidentification. The judge ordered him released, whereupon the prosecutor demanded "Stay of execution!" The defense objected. The prosecutor declared: "his release will endanger lives!" The judge capitulated and delayed the release by 20 hours. If the prosecution does not come up with a reason for detention, Alhatib will be released at 2 PM the next day.

Surprisingly, three minors did not show up. A policeman explained that there was "an emergency situation". The judge was at first doubtful, but decided to continue the hearing in their absence.