Beit Ummar, Etzion DCL, Nabi Yunis
What happens to the money Palestinians are required to deposit as surety they’ll appear in court?
When a Palestinian is arrested in the occupied territories or in Israel because he has no permit to be in Israel, and when he’s released on bail to insure he’ll appear in court, his family must pay a few thousand shekels. After he appears in court, and the trial ends, his bail money should be refunded. If the trial is held in a court in Israel (which usually happens in the case of people in Israel without permits), the person can attend only if he receives an entry permit valid for the day of the trial.
The attorney who arranges for release on bail (both in the occupied territories and in Israel) usually comes from the Office of the Public Defender. If this attorney fails to ahead of time for an entry permit for the trial in Israel, the person won’t be able to appear and will forfeit the bail money.
A person who appears in court is entitled to a refund of his bail. To obtain it he needs the following documents:
1. A letter from a judge ordering the refund. The letter must specify the number of the original payment receipt.
2. The original receipt.
3. Confirmation from a bank branch that the person has an account there. Only banks recognized by the Bank of Israel may receive bail refunds. Not all banks in the occupied territories are recognized.
All these documents must be sent via registered mail to the Staff Officer for Finance in the Beit El headquarters, who coordinates receipt and distribution of all the payments required of Palestinians throughout the West Bank. A person who has no Israeli friends cannot send registered mail because he’s unable to access a location which has an Israeli post office, nor does he have a return address for the item or for the delivery confirmation notice. Only an Israeli has such an address. So the person must obtain an attorney. The attorney’s fee is high. We spoke to some people who said they had an attorney to handle the matter but they’d never received their money. As far as we know, most judges aren’t aware they must issue a letter to people who appeared before them ordering the bail refunded. And if the judge does issue a letter, they usually don’t know they’re required to specify the number of the original receipt. Most attorneys are also unaware of these requirements. It seems that, in most cases, the money is not refunded, as Haggai Matar’s letter clearly and comprehensively explains. These funds are added to all the other monies Israel collects from Palestinians in the occupied territories.
07:30 Husan. No one awaited us.
08:00 Nashash. No one awaited us, but we spoke to M., the policeman at the Etzion DCO. He said his office is open during the usual hours (08:00-12:00), and there’s also a policeman at the Hebron DCO. If people phoned us asking whether policemen were on duty today at these DCOs, we said there were.
08:30 Beit Umar. People waited to consult with us regarding police and Shabak matters.
09:00 Nabi Yunis. People also waited here to consult regarding police and Shabak matters. One told us that last Tuesday he was arrested, taken to the Kiryat Arba police station and released on NIS 1,000 bond, until the trial at the Ofer court on 20.5.14. He wasn’t given a receipt. When he asked for one they told him to “come back Thursday.” When he came back they still didn’t give him a receipt. The practice of receiving money at police stations without issuing a receipt or even a slip of paper acknowledging the funds has been going on for many years, and has happened innumerable times. Most of the incidents we’re aware of have occurred at the Kiryat Arba police station.
Here’s the usual excuse: When Palestinians are being held at a police station and will be released on bail until the trial, their relatives must pay the bail at an Israeli post office, which isn’t accessible to Palestinians. The policemen say they’re doing the Palestinians a favor. When relatives give cash to the policemen they release the prisoner. Then, in his free time, the policeman goes to the post office to pay the bail. The police say the person must return to the police station a few days later to obtain the post office receipt.
So far, so good. But we’ve never received an answer to the question why no policeman has ever issued a hand-written note confirming he’d received a certain amount in cash to pay bail at the post office, and why so many people have never received the original postal receipt when they returned to the police station to obtain it. As we’ve said, the bail money won’t be refunded without the original postal receipt for the payment.
10:45 Etzion DCO
The DCO is packed with people. Today’s the day for residents of Bethlehem. About 150 people took numbers from the machine to obtain a place on line. Number 39 has just entered. Some probably will have to go home today empty-handed and will have to return next Monday when it’s Bethlehem’s turn again.
Most people come to obtain or renew a magnetic card. Others need authorizations. Some have been summoned to meetings with “captains” from the Shabak (who try to enlist collaborators), some come to ask about police matters at the policeman’s “window.” Five people waiting for the policeman approached us. We phoned M., the policeman, again, who said they should wait. He’ll receive them. Since other people also approached us about various issues it was already 11:40, and the people waiting for the policeman are still waiting. Again we phoned M. (who’s scheduled to end his shift at 12:00), who said, “I’m leaving the DCO now. Write down the names of the people and their ID numbers, call me tomorrow morning and I’ll tell you why they’ve been blacklisted by the police so you can tell them by phone.” So we did. The next day we weren’t able to reach M. by phone. We phoned A., the commander, who said: “Yesterday was M.’s final day at the Etzion DCO; he was transferred elsewhere. He made a mistake in what he told you.” A. said that he’ll do us a one-time favor and provide the reasons for the blacklisting so we can pass them on to the people involved so they won’t have to come back again (some already came more than once to try an obtain the information. There’s nothing unusual about people having to come repeatedly to find out about their case).
Commander A. referred us to policeman E. at the Hebron DCO. We faxed him; he phoned to tell us that we need a power of attorney to obtain the information. So they people will have to return to the Etzion DCO on Sunday afternoon.
Another man we met at Etzion told us that last year a policeman confiscated his driver’s license. He went to the police headquarters for the occupied territories on a high hill opposite Ma’aleh Adumim (Area E1). They told him to go to the Ofer court to find out whether he had to appear in traffic court. At Ofer they said they had nothing about him, nor was any case pending against him. The policeman who confiscated his license didn’t give him any receipt, and he hasn’t been able to drive for an entire year. He’s afraid to get a new license because he fears he might be severely punished. The man said he’d spoken to K, a policeman at police headquarters, and he’d referred him to the Ofer court.
The next day we called police headquarters in Ma’aleh Adumim and after considerable efforts were able to locate K. We sent him a power of attorney and the details. K. didn’t remember the incident but determined that the police had no claims against that man and faxed us a statement to that effect and confirmed that he could obtain a new driver’s license.
That, of course, is a simple, fair response by a public employee. But in view of the difficulties that every minor or senior official imposes on carrying out the simplest bureaucratic procedures, K’s written response represents an extraordinary humanitarian act, given the nature of the occupation regime.