Ofer - Plea Bargain, Remand Extension
Translation: Marganit W.
There were subtle, but noticeable changes at Ofer Military Court today. The crew that operates the screening machine was not the regular one, and that means something, to those of you who are in the know. Both outside and inside waiting courts were full of people, and yet only two courtrooms were operating, all dealing with remand extensions of Palestinians staying illegally inside Israel. The judges were reserve duty officers whom we have never met before; the white haired prosecutor was probably also on reserve duty. Perhaps the staff was out on a trip again, to boost morale and reinforce our faith in our righteous ways.
The detainees were brought in the usual disorderly manner: their handcuffs were taken off before they were seated on the bench, huddling and changing places. They saw their families in the court and looked for their attorneys… but the attorneys were not there. Three attorneys did not show up with their clients – Haled Al-Araj, Abeer Merar and Abdullah Merar. Whereupon the detainees were taken out, and the judge dictated a decision: the attorneys will have to explain to the court why they had not reported to the court at the appointed hour.
Judge: Major Itzhak Ozdin (Res.)
Military prosecutor: Captain David Ganon (Res.)
Samer Muhammad Fathi Hajazi Jabari – ID 936153568, a Hebron resident, bricklayer by profession, 27 years old, father of 3 girls. His wife has cancer.
Defense: Anwar Abu Omar
As in most cases we attend in the courts, the State of Israel declares the Occupied Territories an enclosed ghetto whose inhabitants are forbidden to leave except when the masters allow it. Samer is accused – and confessed – that in April he left the territory without permission, carrying some tools – hammer, level, trowel – he entered Israel illegally. When you examine his case you realize that all he did was seek work to provide for his family. But he was caught. Not only won’t he have any income, but he is sentenced to 34 days, plus 3 months suspended sentence for a year, and he lost all chance of obtaining a permit to work in Israel. There is an additional fine of 1200 shekels or a month and a half in jail. The tools were confiscated by the state.
The attorney asks to return the tools to the family, but the judge insists on protocol: the accused needs to fill a form for the return of the “exhibits”. I wish I were a fly on the wall in the office where such forms are processed: to find out if and how long it takes and at what price those “exhibits” are returned to their owners, and if they are not, what is the excuse.
Omar Issa Harash – ID 852922863
Defense: Abdullah Merar (who finally showed up).
Omar is an illegal infiltrator, too. He is accused of entering the territory illegally on six separate occasions, but he was arrested only on 8.5.13. Readers familiar with the courts will ask how come he was not arrested on the first and second violation, and how did the investigators know the exact dates of the violations? Did he keep score? We were going to ask his brother, who was sitting in the court, but a terrible commotion erupted and prevented us.
Atty. Merar requested a postponement. The brother objected: he had intended to leave the court with his brother. He got up and shouted. The interpreter, the security officer and the guard rushed to calm him down. The attorney tried to help but to no avail. The brother demanded to end the trial then and there. That was not feasible. The attorney requested a postponement. The brother dismissed the attorney: the case is cut and dry. He was going to plead with the judge directly. They told him that it was his brother who requested an attorney [Well, we know how this happens: a detainee is brought in; he has no defense; the court appoints whoever happens to be there and the detainee accepts it, what does he know?] The brother is told that the judge would not conduct a hearing without an attorney. The hubbub continued. Finally, the attorney, feeling slighted, said, OK, I’m out of here.
If I were to direct a movie of the military court I would cast this man [ the brother ] as the village idiot or the child who said the emperor has no clothes – a simpleton who does not know the rules of the game and says aloud what everyone else thinks.
All this while Harash himself just stood there and did not say anything. The rebellious brother was finally taken out and a second interpreter was sent to explain to him that another hearing would take place on Monday, when he could perhaps address the court, or perhaps his brother, the detainee, would decide to plead for himself. The attorney whose feelings had been hurt also tried to reason with the brother, but the latter continued to explain to the occupation bureaucracy that he has a job and works on Mondays: he can’t waste time at the checkpoint; their father is very sick etc. At the end, the bureaucracy won and the man left.
Ayman Ayad Muhammad Al Sheik – ID 904984143
Muhammad Ayad Muhammad Al Sheik – ID 900386962
Both are charged with entering Israel illegally.
Defense: Abdullah Merar
The charge sheet is rather nebulous. It states that, “from 2013 until 2.5.13 Muhammad Al Sheik has left the area and entered Israel.” Ayman admits to entering Israel only once, on 2.5.13. There is a plea bargain.
Sentence: 31 days in jail from the day of arrest, 3-month suspended sentence for a year plus a fine: Muhammad will pay 500 shekels or go to jail for 2 weeks and Ayman will pay 7500 or spend 3 weeks in jail.
Their father asked if I am Haya Ofek. When I said no, he told me that he too had been convicted at the beginning of the month for the same charge of leaving the ghetto without a permit: he had to pay a fine. He asked if the sum could be reduced and if human rights organizations like ours could petition for him. I had to disappoint him but suggested he talk to his attorney. I am not sure if he took my advice. His main concern was that the indictment would prevent him from entering Jerusalem to pray at Al Aksa mosque. He wondered if there was any chance he would be permitted. I tried to scan in my mind the dozens of MachsomWatch reports relevant to his case, but came up empty. I advised him to contact DCO.
Islam Massalme – ID 855020277
Rias Al Zagari – ID 852815274
Defense: Abdullah Merar
Prosecutor: Israel police represented by Warrant Officer Benny Baruchi
The two are suspected of driving a stolen vehicle toward Judea and Samaria.
The entire legal system, the rules and regulations, the roads, the sellers of vehicles, the car thieves, the agreements between the PA and Israel, the licensing policies and the creative ‘alternative routes’ all supply constant fodder for the military courts.
The two detainees admit to driving the vehicle, but deny that it was stolen. They claim they had bought it from an Israeli, and the sales document show his name and ID number. Ask the seller.
The prosecutor says there is no such document in the investigation memorandum.
[What happened here is what Haya Ofek had reported several times in her reports: the policeman who arrested them took the documents but did not include them in the file. Now the onus is on the detainee to prove that there was such a document.]
Decision: remand extension for 8 days to complete the investigation.