Ofer - Stone Throwing, Students
Translation: Marganit W.
We came specifically to observe the appeal by Ashraf Abu Rahmah from Bil’in, who is accused of throwing rocks during a Friday demonstration. Bil’in is not Tahrir Square and certainly not Rothschild Boulevard in Tel Aviv, where politically neutral activists have become overnight heroes, and return peacefully to their homes the day after the demonstration. By contrast, the Abu Rahmeh family, who conduct non-violent protests against the illegal seizure of their land, continue to struggle, despite the suffering and bereavement they have endured.
The son, Bassam (April 2009) – See B’tselem report
The daughter, Jawaher (the beginning of 2009) – See Haaretz report
They are both Ashraf’s siblings who were killed by the Israeli army during Friday demonstrations. Ashraf himself was lucky: he was only injured by a soldier who shot him at close range – by order of his commander – while he was standing, shackled and blindfolded, by an army jeep. See The Shooting in Ni’lin on YouTube.
The Israeli oppression continues: At the end of Friday demonstration on 21.10.11, Ashraf was arrested when the army invaded the village. Perhaps as retaliation for the penalty imposed on those who had shot him? His trial took place on 27.11.11 at Ofer Military Court before Justice Captain Zvi Frankel who decided to extend his detention until the conclusion of the proceedings. The judge rejected the defense’s motion for alternative to imprisonment, which prompted today’s appeal.
Appellant: Ashraf Abu Rahmah – ID 906435698, Case No. 2448/11
Judge: Colonel Yoram Haniel
Defense: Atty. Gaby Lasky
Military Prosecutor: Eran Levi
The discussion focused on the defense’s objection to testimonies by 2 soldiers who testified for the prosecution and which formed the basis for the indictment. The defense presented affidavits from witnesses who had been present at the demonstration as well as video clips, all testifying that Ashraf did not throw rocks. The defense claimed that “someone kidnapped the appellant from the scene and brought him to the police… we have no evidence as to who arrested him, where and why he was detained…“ When the judge asked for the prosecutor’s response, the latter said, “Based on the material in the file, I do not know.”
The defense said this is ground for unconditional release. Moreover, Ashraf was detained for two hours after the time the witnesses claim they saw him throw rocks, which was when the military jeeps entered the village. The video presented to the court shows the jeeps passing by Ashraf without arresting him. Only when he ran after them, waving a flag, was he nabbed and arrested. This is all recorded on tape.
The soldiers’ testimony is baffling. First, they stood behind a (new) wall 9 -meters tall, which prevented them from seeing the demonstrators, Moreover, while the commander claimed that he was able to identify Ashraf from a distance of 100-150 meters, under gas clouds, the other soldier testified that he saw the appellant from 5-10 meters, which is also inconceivable because of another obstacle – about 20 meters wide – that separated the demonstrators from the wall. Plus, there was a group of soldiers standing roughly at the same spot on the other side of the wall: where is their testimony?
The defense pointed out that there is a pillbox with a camera in Bil’in. A (female) observer testified that all the demonstrations are recorded there. The defense had requested to see the filmed demonstration, but to no avail. To the judge’s inquiry, the prosecutor said, “I have no answer at the moment.”
The defense protests Justice Zvi Frankels decision to accept the prosecution’s questionable proof and his disregard for her (the attorney’s) depositions, and, which is worse, for the personal circumstances of the defendant. She requested an alternative to detention, which will guarantee that Ashraf does not participate in Friday demonstrations.
A few days later, we were told that the appeal was rejected. Ashraf Abu Rahmah will stay in detention until the conclusion of the proceedings.
See article in Haaretz re Ashraf’s detention.
In the yard we met parents from Daheisha Refugee Camp. Their son, Ismail Faraj, age 19, was arrested 3 weeks ago, on 10.10.11. The army kidnapped (not arrested) him at 4:30 AM, as is their wont. The parents needed the help of the Moked le’Haganat Ha’prat to find out that the son was detained at Ashkelon Prison. At Ofer they were made to wait for hours for a hearing that lasted 3 minutes. They were allowed only to see him, not talk or touch, for just 3 minutes. His remand was extended, naturally. On the phone later, the mother told me that Ismail is a law student. He had been incriminated by someone, and the family has no idea what the charge against him is.