Ofer - Plea Bargain, Holding and trading of combat materiel

Observers: 
Hava Halevy, Hagit Shlonsky (reporting)
10/01/2012
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Morning

Translation: Marganit W.

We entered the court compound without a hitch. Only remand extension hearings were held today in two halls. All other hearings were re-scheduled due to conferences. We were told that the attorneys and the families had not been informed of the change.

In Courtroom 2 remand extension hearings were conducted for a docket of 32
"Days Detaineesinfo-icon".
 

Judge: Lieut.-Col. Shmuel Kedar
Prosecutor: Atty. David Gabai Richter

About half of the detainees have no charge sheets yet. Their interrogation has been completed; all have violations involving "risk factor". The prosecution enumerates some of the violations and requests remand extension to complete the indictment. At this stage of the procedure the interrogation material is confidential: the attorney is not familiar with the evidence presented to the judge. The judge examines the file and within minutes decides on how many days are required for the prosecution to complete the indictment.
Other detainees (17 today) do have charge sheets. Some confess to at least a few violations. Based on their admission, their attorneys bargain with the prosecution for reduced penalty (plea bargain). The judge declares that he is not OBLIGATED to accept the agreement, but he eventually accepts it - since the suspect has confessed, thereby saving the court's precious time, or conversely, since there are "evidentiary difficulties" in the file  (the prosecution may not be able to prove its case while the admission in itself is not sufficient to convict). Thus, the court prefers to impose a reduced sentence, without convincing evidence, rather than release the suspect, taking into account circumstances such as no prior record, the age of the suspect, the state of his health etc.
 

Detainees who do not confess during their interrogation, have their detention extended for several days, until "conditions are ripe" for a plea bargain, when they confess to acts that they did or did not commit, hoping to shorten their jail term. (The few detainees who adamantly refuse to confess will have to fight for their innocence in a long evidentiary trial.)
 

Today's session included detainees with and without charges, some who confessed and others who denied the allegations. They were all represented by an attorney; most had relatives in court. A considerable number of violations involved illegal stay in Israel. This all too common violation is usually coupled with other charges, such as "causing damage to the separation wall," using false papers, possession of a knife, fleeing the police and attacking a policeman or a soldier. For example:
 

Abdulrahim  Muhammad Mahmud Znobar, ID 990000952 - Case 1040/12
Defense: Atty Issam Mrar

Znobar is accused of staying in Israel without a permit and causing damage to a military installation (the separation fence).
The detainee is 51 years old. He has been sitting in court since early morning: his case came before the judge only toward noon. He speaks fluent Hebrew and tries to explain his situation, but the judge tells him repeatedly, "Tell it to your attorney," refusing to let him speak.
The prosecution moves to detain the suspect until the procedure is complete.
The suspect admits to having crossed the fence illegally, but he insists that there was already a hole in the fence.

The attorney explains that his client crossed into Israel to receive donations from an organization that operates inside Israel, helping him with medical expenses. He was caught right away (and captured on camerainfo-icon), but no tools were found on him with which he could have broken the fence (the attorney specifically mentions a disk saw, which is heavy and unwieldy). The police report contains contradictory statements by an observer and by security forces patrolling the area. The defense presents documents testifying to the detainee's severe, life threatening medical condition.
The judge rejects the prosecution's motion and releases the accused under
limiting conditions: a 5000-shekel deposit with third party guarantee of 5000.
Arraignment hearing is set for 13.2.12 before Major Meir Vigiser.
 

Other cases heard today were also marked by blowing routine occurrences out of proportion.
A boy in detention for 12 days is charged with carrying, possessing and producing arms. It turns out that the boy was collecting bullets and shells found in a field near an army base located close to his village.
Perhaps he intended to use these for some purpose, but the judge decided to accept the plea bargain struck between the sides, declaring the 12 days already served as actual jail time, plus a suspended sentence of 3 months for a year and a 1000 shekel fine or a month in jail.

The boy could be released today, if he paid the fine.

Harabi Abed Rabba, ID 952905669 - Case 1043/12
Defense: Atty. Rony Salman
A 45-year old shepherd, father of 8, living in the mountains near Yatta, where he tends to a flock of 80 sheep.

He looks out of place in the court: neither a city dweller, nor a farmer - someone living outside familiar circumstances.
During the hearing for his remand extension, he was charged with endangering human life in traffic, using a - suspected - stolen vehicle, fleeing from the police and possession of a knife.
The judge rejects the defense's motion and sides with the prosecution that argues for clear and imminent danger and flight risk. The file, he claims, points to severe violations.

In a session that took place on 17.1.12 – a week later - this case was presented before Justice Lieut.-Col. Menashe Vachnish. The file already included a charge sheet. The prosecutor was Captain Mazi Mekonen.
Harab Abed Rabbe admitted trying to flee the police for fear that his vehicle would be impounded since it had no registered owner and was about to be taken apart.
The defense explained that his client is a simple man, detached from urban life, living in the mountains with his family and flock, having minimal contact with people, and he had never been in trouble with the law.

The defense pointed out discrepancies in the officers' testimonies regarding an
assault. He requested the court to release his client under any conditions the judge sees fit, since detaining him would wreak havoc on his family: there is nobody to take care of his flock.
Two brothers of the accused were in court, ready to "assume full responsibility for him", meaning, presumably, that they guarantee he won't "flee from justice" and report to court, if required.
In his decision, the judge refrained from addressing the differences between prosecution and defense, ignoring the main charge of fleeing from the police and attacking an officer. The judge declared the accused 'dangerous' because he drove a condemned vehicle, thus endangering life.
This, according to the judge, was the reason for the arrest, and this is why the man is a flight risk. [The judge may not know it, but "ownerless" vehicles, which are unregistered and uninsured, are commonly used by locals in the Palestinian enclaves of C area].
The judge ordered a remand extension until the conclusion of the proceedings and set an arraignment hearing for 13.2.12 before Justice Meir Vigiser.