Ofer - Interrogation of Witness, Minors

Tamar Fleischman, Ofra Ben Artzi (reporting)

Translation: Marganit W.

We have been following the trial of Abdullah Abu Rahma of Bil’in because of the growing interest in the non-violent struggle against the fence that Israel is trying unsuccessfully to quash. The testimony of the incriminator, as well as the violent reaction of the army during last Friday’s demonstration in the village (23.4.10) in which a protester was severely injured in the head by direct fire, all testify to the strategic importance the state attaches to quelling this struggle, as well as to the courage and determination of the Bili’n residents and their supporters, who confront the mightiest army in the Middle East.
Judge: Captain Etty Adar
Prosecutor: Major Hagai Rothstein
Defense: Atty. Gaby Lasky
Defendant: Abdullah Abu Rahma, ID 997446703 - Case No. 5327/09

This time, Halil, who incriminated Abdullah (and all the other leaders of the popular struggle against the fence) did show up in court, after 2 failed attempts by the “special commandos” (the prosecution’s terminology) of the army to subpoena him. No wonder he tried to evade them: early on he was declared “a hostile witness” with all it entails for him (detention, trial etc.). He denied and recanted his police statement, as well as his testimonies in other trials that made use of his incriminations. For 3 hours he wove a web of prevarications and inconsistencies, apparently in an attempt to clear himself of the notoriety of being The Village Incriminator. From his perspective, it’s better to be seen as a liar. Here are some choice parts of his testimony.

1. A hostile witness in a maze of contradictions, denials and lies (from the prosecution interrogation):
Q: When you testified in the case of Adeeb Abu Rahma… you were asked if you knew Abdulla Abu Rahma, and you said No. Here, I asked the same question and you said you did know him. Which is it?
A: Yes, I know him.
Q: So you lied to the court?
A: Yes.
Q: Who are the members of the Committee Against the Fence in Bil’in?
A: People from abroad.
Q: Only they are the members?
A: Yes.
Q: So why did you mention the defendant and other people?
A: I didn’t know that the organizers are people from abroad, and there was pressure on me.

2. How the witness signed the statement at the police station (from the prosecutor’s interrogation)
Q: So who led those marches?
A: People from abroad.
Q: But earlier you said you didn’t know. Which is the truth?
A: It’s people from abroad whom I don’t know.
Q: What you said to the police wasn’t true?
A: It wasn’t.
Q: So why is it written there?
A: That’s what they wrote.
Q: The interrogator did not read the statement back to you?
A: No.
Q: And you didn’t sign it?
A: I signed it.
Q: You signed something sight unseen?
A: What do I know? He told me that’s what I had said.
Q: Did the police threaten you?
A: Yes.
Q: How?
A: They threatened to beat me. They said I had weapons and I wouldn’t be released.
Q: Were you afraid of the interrogator?
A: Yes.

3. It turns out that the witness is illiterate and could not read his statement (from the defense interrogation)
Q: Can you read or write?
A: No.
Q: Can you sign your name?
A: Yes.
Q: Can you write something else?
A: No.
Q: How many years did you stay in school?
A: Up to tenth grade.
Q: And in ten years you didn’t learn to read?
A: No.
Q: What do you do today?
A: I am a student in vocational school.
Q: Learning what?
A: Carpentry.
Q: When you signed the statement… you didn’t know what you were signing because you couldn’t read it?
A: That’s right.
Q: Then why did you sign?
A: He told me to sign. He said there was nothing in it.

4. The circumstances of the arrest and the interrogation of a fatherless Palestinian minor, then 16 years old - Israel 2009 (from the defense interrogation)
Q: How old were you when you were arrested?
A: 17
Q: What time was it when they came for you?
A: Three at night.
Q: How did they arrest you?
A: They woke up my family, took my ID card, then they took me away.
Q: How did your family react?
A:  As usual.
Q: Is your father at home?
A: My father is dead.
Q: What do you mean “as usual”. Are you used to being arrested?
A: It was my first time, but many others had been arrested.
Q: But they were arrested because of you – you incriminated them.
A. I was the first to be arrested.
Q: So you didn’t hear of other detaineesinfo-icon before that. Was it hard on you?
A: So-so.
Q: Did they blindfold and handcuff you?
A: Yes.
Q: Where did they take you like this?
A: To a base.
Q: The soldiers were carrying guns?
A: Yes.
Q: How long were you at the base?
A: I don’t know. I was blindfolded.
Q: Did they allow you to sleep, eat, and go to the bathroom?
A: No.
Q: According to your police statement on the day you were arrested, your interrogation took place at 14:20. In other words, you were blindfolded and handcuffed since 3 AM.
A: Yes.
Q: Were you permitted to phone your parents prior to the interrogation?
A: No.
Q: Did your mother attend the interrogation with you?
A: No.
Q: Before you were arrested, did anyone come to the house and request that you go to the police station for interrogation?
A: No.
Q: You told the prosecutor that you were threatened during the interrogation. Can you tell us how you felt? Were you scared?
A: I was scared.
Q: And because you were scared you said things that were not true?
A: Yes.

This is how a regional superpower applies the ancient “Divide and Conquer” tactics (always with short-lived results) to a Palestinian minor. At the Ofer Military Court, the outrageous and despicable face of the state is revealed; its evil, malicious intents are exposed to the world as it tries to quash a continuous non-violent, popular struggle, shamelessly and immorally exploiting children and young boys.