Ofer - Plea Bargain, Stone Throwing
Translation: Marganit W.
Today the entry process took only an hour, a rare achievement. We were forbidden to carry bags, food or drink; only wallets were allowed (soon to be prohibited as well), car keys (to be deposited together with ID cards) tissues and pens. Everything has to be carried by hand or in the pockets.
We were asked if we had sent a fax, something we had done years ago. After more delaying questions, they finally let us in.
In the Minors Court today, some youngsters stand trial who are no longer minors, but who committed the crimes when they were underage. According to the law prevailing inside Israel, as well as according to all international treaties, they are considered minors.
A striking phenomenon today was the balance between plea bargains and evidentiary hearings. Except that evidentiary hearings too have a special quality in a court that subjects civilians to military law: the witnesses, for the most part, are members of various security agencies: police, army, interrogators. These don't always show up in court to testify. It is not clear how willing the military court is to enforce its authority to summon these witnesses.
Before the hearing begins, Atty. Shaheen shares with us his frustration with the checkpoint in his village, Daharia, "They are strangling us. The checkpoint there has no security justification. Every day they tell us it will open tomorrow. 8 months ago the head of Military Administration told us he was going to open the checkpoint. It is still closed. We have to drive 40 minutes in the Hebron Mountains. It takes 4 hours on the road to get to Ofer."
Judge: Major Sharon Rivlin-Ahai
Prosecutor: Lieutenant-Colonel Sigal Tidhar
Defense: Atty. Shaheen
We were joined by members of Justice Without Borders.
Muhammad Madhi Hussein Huarin, ID 854409943 - Case No.5325/09
Muhammad, 17 years old, from Bethlehem is, charged with aggravated assault (of a kindergarten guard in Gilo) and attempted homicide, and has been in jail for 7 months now.
His father enters the court, sitting down in front of the boy. The two try to converse.
Judge: You decided to assault an armed man and take his weapon. On the way you picked up an iron pipe. You watched the guard for half an hour, and when he sat down you attacked him. Abu Ala hit him with the pipe on the head, and you sat on him. Together you tried to take his gun, but you failed and fled. The guard had a head injury.
In addition, you tried to hurt some soldiers. On 15.12.09 you approached the Tunnels Checkpoint armed with a knife intending to stab a soldier. You kept watch on the post and the soldiers noticed you and arrested you."
The attorney says you deny all allegations.
Reminder hearing set for: 28.6.10
2. Ziad Samir Shukri Dar Ali Muhammad, ID 850676396 - Case No.1924/10
Charge: stone throwing
Defense: Atty. Firas
Ziad is accused of "throwing stones at security forces as part of general riots on 16.3.10. When caught, he had rocks in both hands."
The attorney denies the allegations. The defendant did not hold stones nor did he throw any.
The judge tells him he should not admit to offenses he did not commit, but during his interrogation he admitted to throwing stones.
If he does not accept the charges, the two soldiers who arraigned him and the interrogator who took his statement should appear in court.
The trial was postponed to an Evidentiary Hearing on 21.6.10.
All the prosecution witnesses will be summoned. And the soldiers have to be notified about the duty to attend.
The attorney will explain to the minor the meaning of 'evidentiary hearing' and the judge adds, "Had he not confessed, it would have been a different story..."
Mahmaz Haled Nahla, ID 854106093 - Case No. 1624/10
Defense: Atty. Tarek Bargout
Mahmaz - born 1991- now hears for the first time the charges that his attorney received only yesterday. He is accused of throwing stones between
2007 and 2009, on several occasions. He is also accused of preparing a Molotov cocktail, throwing a pipe bomb and a Molotov cocktail at Beit-El.
The two sides have reached a plea bargain and the defendant admits the charges.
The judge accepts the bargain and the punishment is 20-month jail time, 12 months probation and 2000 shekel fine.
This "lenient sentence" was explained by the offender's young age at the time, his clean record and the fact that the bottle was thrown from a great distance was emphasized that the defendant was intensively active against the security forces for 3 years.
Here are two criminal cases of minors:
Defense: Atty. Maya Giladi-Jolson
In the first hearing the defense and the prosecution reached an agreement.
The second hearing, however, is a continuation of an evidentiary hearing, a never-ending saga because of witnesses that never showed up. How simple.
Ma'in Majed Dar Aassi, ID 916625874 - Case No. 5449/09
The defendant wishes to recant his denial of allegations. According to the revised charge sheet, he broke into a house, assisted by someone else, and stole money and jewelry. When he came out, the police stopped him, but he ran, fell, injured himself, then got arrested. All this while violating an order of 'closed area'.
The defense accepts the prosecution's account, points out the defendant's personality problems and the impossibility of conducting inquests in the Territories. She comments on police brutality, mentions that the family found work for him in the area (probably in a settlement), and requests a limited probation, to allow him to work.
The judge cites the defendant's 7 previous property violations and illegal entry into Israel. "Since you were 15 you've been in and out of jails, and now you're an adult."
The sentence takes into consideration the fact that the stolen property had been returned to its owners, and the penalty includes 2000 shekel compensation. Thus Ma'in Majid gets 10 months in jail plus 10-month probation for 3 years, plus 3000 shekel fine.
Hamuda Jumaa Abed Alrahman Dar Mussa, ID 404303844
- Case No. 1004/10
Continuation of last week's hearing, including witness examination, except
that today only one out of several witnesses showed up.
The defense asks if the witness has read the report and he answers, "I remembered everything. The moment I was told what it's about, it sprang into my head." The witness was examined by the defense about to the place and the amount of light there was. Needless to say, there was plenty of light where the witness had stood.
The defense cites several problems with the evidence: no fingerprints or shoe prints were taken, no DNA tests and, above all, witnesses did not show up at the previous hearing, especially witness No. 3 who was expressly summoned by the court to testify.
Further hearing was set for Defense with Evidence for 10.6.10.
No-show witnesses in evidentiary hearing is a recurrent problem. The impression is that often the military court lacks the will and the authority to deal with the problem. The various security agents are often in training somewhere in the North, or in operation in the South, or were not released by their commanders. In other cases these are policemen who are not answerable to the court authority, or investigators who do not respond to the summons.