Ofer - Interrogation of Witness
Translation: Marganit W.
Continuation of the trial of Ayman Amin Muhammad Nasser, ID 981581068
Ayman is a researcher and activist in Adameer, an organization providing legal protection for Palestinian prisoners. He is accused of membership and activity in the Popular Front [for the liberation of Palestine].
Judge: Major Meir Vissiger
Defense: Atty. Mahmoud Hassan
The detainee’s wife and his mother were present in the court.
Handala and 200 shekels
Two witnesses testified today. They are probably those who incriminated Ayman Nasser. Both are prisoners serving time in Israeli jails.
Like all evidentiary trials in the military courts, there is a three-way battle of brains going on between the military prosecutors, the defense and the witnesses. Both sides try constantly to “refresh the witnesses’ memory by quoting from the police statement taken during the GSS interrogation: Why did you say this, yet later you didn’t say it? Why did you say one thing to the interrogators and another to the police plants? Is it true that you said this or that to different people? The witnesses I saw in court wore prison uniforms.
The judge advises them not to be afraid: since their trial is over, there is no danger that they will be charged with new crimes. It was my impression that they were not convinced. For the most part they say that they don’t remember, or that they spoke under pressure and threats. This is why both the defense and the prosecution try to “refresh their memories”.
Here is the story: 17.4.12 was a memorial day for the shaheed [martyr] Abu Ali Mustafa, commander of the Popular Front. He was murdered by an Israeli missile in his office in Ramallah in 2001. The military branch of the Popular Front Organization is named after him. In retaliation for his assassination, the new commander, Ahmad Saadat, sent a small unit to kill Rehavam Zeevi [a well known radical right-wing Minister and Knesset member], and they carried out the mission.
This short biography explains why on his memorial day the GSS is on particular alert, conducting searches for suspects in rallies and demonstrations.
On 17.4.12 there were several commemorative events in Ramallah – a demonstration, a rally, a prisoners’ strike and a protest tent.
Ayman Nasser is accused of membership and activity in the Popular Front – an unlawful organization, according to the Emergency Regulations. On that day he gave 200 shekels to one of the organizers of the rally to charter a bus that would take youngsters to the rally and to the demonstration. He himself attended the demonstration. 200 shekels! Where is the money? With the Popular Front?
This sum (we don’t know where it came from and who owns the account) is the basis for the charge of membership and activity in an unlawful organization.
As for taking part in the rally, distributing flags and posters – Ayman Nasser claims that he did not attend that demonstration. At that time he was at the bank in Ramallah, and the bank manager is willing (with no great alacrity, to be sure) to testify.
Still, the 200 shekels were transferred from hand to hand in order to bring people to the rally. “What’s your response to that?” as lawyers would say. Well, the defense claims that Nasser indeed dealt with prisoners’ rights and conditions, but his activity was part of the Public Committee, which is affiliated with the Palestinian Authority. The Committee in fact belongs to the PA and collaborates with many agencies, including members of the Popular Front.
Nasser was also interrogated in connection with his activity as the chairman of Handala Center, which is a cultural center in Kafar Safa, where he lives. The name Handala has political connotations (it means resistance to the occupation). It is also the name of a ten year old boy from the website of a famous Palestinian cartoonist, Naji Al Ali. The boy is always shown from behind, we can’t see his eyes, but we see what he sees through his eyes: scenes of the occupation. We also see the stupid and absurd aspects of the occupation (which we, too, encounter and point out).
HandalaCenteris financed by USAID and the PA: it sponsors lectures, cultural courses and parties. The prosecution tried to show that Handala Center is a hornets’ nest, while the defense tried to show that it is a cultural center.
By the end of the session, Nasser’s activity in the Popular Front had not been proved, but it was obvious that the GSS investigators were very eager to link him to such activity. The two witnesses testifying today reported (besides descriptions of sleep deprivation and threats) that they had been shown a photo of Nasser and were asked many questions about him: they were pressured to state that they had collaborated with him in the Popular Front.
On March 12, the GSS investigators known as Amnon and Gabriel, will testify behind closed doors.