Ofer - Stone Throwing, Health Problems
Translation: Marganit W.
The entrance to the compound – The Palmers
In front of the iron gate – iron bolts and iron grid – under the watchful eyes of soldiers sitting behind opaque glass, we were not alone. The soldier behind the glass pane calls them “Palmers” – this is a group of settlers who came to attend the trial of Palestinians accused of killing Asher Palmer and his baby son. These Palmers did not spare us their opinions, even though we did not solicit them. A woman, ambulance driver by profession, told us how she drives her ambulance into Arab villages to help whenever needed (you can guess why an ambulance enters an Arab village to offer help). The woman suggested I read the book of Joshua so I can better appreciate our right to the land. Their lawyer lifted his eyes heavenward in expectation of the arrival of the Messiah. When he comes, the lawyer said, people like us should all be exterminated. He called us (Lefties, Arab sympathizers) riffraff. Another settler said about us, “they hate us more than we hate the enemy (or maybe he said the Arabs)”. And other pieces and goodies in a language fit for prostitutes.
Malek Alame’s Trial and Justice Dahan’s attempt to find the truth
Judge: Captain Amir Dahan
Prosecutor: Lieut. Mughira Sarhan
Defense: Haled Alaaraj
Malek Alame, a 21 year old retarded man, who lives with his family on Route 60 near Beit Ummar, was arrested on 29.2.12, was brought for interrogation and charged with throwing rocks at a police car near Beit Ommar. He is alleged to have been in a car with two family members. Eight months have passed with six hearings at Ofer military court.
Malek underwent three diagnostic tests at the “Retarded Persons Services” in Jerusalem, and they all yielded that he is sane and can tell the difference between right and wrong, i.e., he is fit to stand trial. Please bear these diagnoses in mind because we will refer to them later.
We thought that today’s hearing would be the last: the attorney asserted that the judge would hand down his decision today. But this did not happen. At 15:30 the session began. Only one count remained out of two in the original indictment. The judge read it slowly and clearly. It said that Malek was riding in a vehicle with two friends. They stopped on the way, and each picked up a rock before they continued driving. They passed by a police car, put their hands out and pelted the police car with the rocks.
The interpreter translated, the attorney affirmed that he had explained the charge to his client and that the latter understood them. Then the judge asked the defendant: Did you understand? Malek looked at his attorney, the attorney nodded and Malek said, Yes, but his eyes wondered to his parents who were sitting in the audience, between the judge, the interpreter and the defense,
Then came the decision: the judge found Malek guilty based on his admission. A plea bargain was already in place and we thought that that was it, but then the judge wanted to clarify something and asked Malek to describe what happened on that day. Malek said, “I took a ride with them on my way back from work. They told me, Come up! And I sat in the back”.
The judge asked, “Did you see them stop and pick up rocks from the side of the road?”
Malek said, “They took rocks into the car. They were the ones who threw the rocks. I was sitting in the back.”
The judge asked, “ Did you hear them talk, planning to throw the rocks?” [We, who know that Malek is mentally challenged and hard of hearing, realize that a person sitting in the back of a car can not hear well, or process what is said in the front seat while the car is in motion.]
Malek said, “I didn’t hear and I didn’t know that they were planning to throw the rocks.”
The judge asked, “Did you stick your hand out of the car window to throw a rock?”
Malek said, “No.” He seemed to be getting more and more distressed.
Then the judge asked the attorney, the interpreter and Malek to approach the bench and we witness how, in the banal routine of military courts, where everything is predictable and nobody sees the defendant as a human being, Justice Dahan made an effort to get to the truth. He said, “A moment ago, when I questioned you, you admitted the charges in the revised indictment and you said that you threw the rocks; now you say you did not. Explain the inconsistency”. Malek was visibly distressed, but the judge did not relent: again and again, he explained and demanded to know which version was true. Then Malek, his brow furrowed, his eyes shifting, said what was obviously the truth, that he did not understand, that he does not understand. His parents tried to intervene, saying that he is hard of hearing, that he needs to have everything repeated, but all this only exacerbated Malek’s distress. Then, to our surprise, the attorney got up and said that what was going on in the court is harming his client. The judge said, somewhat inexplicably, “I am not trying to harm him, nor to help him. I am doing my duty under the law – I am trying to find out what really happened on 29.2.12 on Rte. 60.
For all the admissions in the police statements, the incriminations, the diagnostic tests and the six hearings, I must declare that in all my observations of military courts I have not seen a judge really making such an effort to get to the truth. Then Justice Dahan gave his ruling, saying, “In view of my impression of the defendant, even though he admitted his guilt in statement to the police and in the court, I hereby rescind the court’s decision: I do not consider his confession admissible.”
Perhaps, this session was – as the attorney claimed – the last one after all. However, we don’t have an official decision because “the defendant suffers from several syndromes and health issues, as attested by the diagnostic report.
The two sides agreed to submit their arguments in writing, and in two weeks, on 7.11.12, the court will hold a memorandum hearing and a decision will be handed down the next day.