Ofer - Release on Bail, Stone Throwing
Translation: Marganit W.
Courtroom 7 - Justice Shlomo Katz (res.)
Mostly remand extensions and bail posting.
There are 56 cases in the docket: the court is supposed to be in session for at most 7 hours, meaning an average of 8 minutes for each hearing in cases where people are deprived of their freedom (and, as you will see below, also of great sums of money). From these 8 minutes you have to subtract the time spent on entry and exit of prisoners, attorneys, family members and the usual courtroom hubbub. When I say ‘usual’ this sounds benign, but believe me, there is no resemblance here to what you see on American movies or at the Supreme Court.
Most of the detainees are here because they left the territories without a permit or used a fake ID – in other words, for staying illegally inside Israel.
Tarek Nazar – ID 855012266
Defense: Atty. Abir Merar
The hearing opens with a declaration that there is a “plea bargain”. The charge is violation of the “closed area” injunction. Tarek entered Israel without a permit, using a fake ID. If this reminds you of the ghetto, you are not alone.
According to the plea bargain the prison term will overlap with time spent already, plus 4-month suspended sentence for 4 years. The detainee can be released provided someone pays a 1000 shekels fine, or else, he stays in jail for another month.
We are familiar with this formula whereby a month in a Palestinian’s life is worth 1000 shekels. The judge used the same formula in subsequent hearings.
Muhammad Adnan Shiha – ID 860053016
Defense: Atty. Ibrahim Nubani
The hearing focuses on the bail.
Muhammad was arrested on 3.10.13 and is accused of throwing rocks on three occasions. The defense tries to reduce the bail because of the defendant’s harsh economic situation: he and the family can only afford 1500 shekels. In a surprise motion, the prosecutor states that throwing rocks constitutes endangerment and does not warrant mitigation in the terms of release. As for the economic hardship she says: “ there is no documentation to support his claim of economic straits”. I wondered what documents she had in mind,
The judge’s reaction to this vapid legal cliché: “There is prior decision regarding Muhammad’s release. I agree with the defense that the economic situation in the area is dire and no further testimony is required. The bail is not a penalty but an attempt to balance the public interest in guaranteeing that the defendant reports to court with his right to be free until convicted. Based on an earlier court decision, I approve the reduction in bail.
The first two hearings generated 2500 shekels for the state’s coffers.
Hitam Muhammad Halilach – ID 854413978
Defense: Atty. Ibrahim Nubani
I did not hear what the charge or suspicion are. He too was released on bail, which he could not afford. The attorney said that the family was able to gather 2500 shekels and is asking that this would be the sum. The judge acceded.
Now the state has 5000 shekels from bail money alone.
Zaidan Rashid – ID 850428137
Defense: Atty. Jamal Ahmad
Zaidan, resident of Yata, was arrested when he presented a fake permit (trying to enter Israel illegally). This is the story: He was working for an employer in Beit-Shemesh. For some reason the employer cancelled the permit before the work period was over. Thus, says the defense, the permit is not fake, it is just no longer valid. His client cannot be accused of faking a document. Moreover, illegal entry into Israel is a well-known phenomenon: the violators do so because they need to provide for their families: there is no work in the [Occupied] Territories and the economic situation is very dire. If Zaidan cannot work in Israel, he may have to resort to worse remedies: theft or violence.
The military prosecutor presents her arguments: even though Zaidan has no prior record, there is still ‘endangerment’ and he is a flight risk; thus she moves to detain him until the conclusion of the investigation.
The defense invokes the “Farajin Principle” which deals with penalty for staying illegally inside Israel. I am citing (from the Internet) one paragraph from Justice Rubinstein’s learned decision. As you can see, the customary ambiguity regarding “gates and borders” is maintained, as well as phrases such as “reality anchored in the geo-strategic situation in the State of Israel” and “for obvious reasons which we shall not go into” – but as for “Occupation,” there is no mention of it:
“The issue raised by this case is not a simple one. We are facing a dilemma between the right and the duty of the state to guard its gates and borders against foreigners entering and staying illegally within its borders. This right and duty are incontrovertible, from the point of view of security and other considerations, bearing in mind the geo-strategic position of Israel vis-à-vis a population that, for obvious reasons that we will not elaborate on, finds itself in dire socio-economic situation, unemployment and poverty. Thus, we decided to allow an appeal and a hearing in the case…”
According to the Farajin precedent a person caught staying illegally for the second time receives a prison sentence. The defendant in our case has been caught for the first time, presents no risk, has a large family, an aging father etc.
But the prosecutor is not impressed by the economic hardships: in a remarkable reversal of cause and effect, she claims that the use of fake papers is a hassle for the security forces and is therefore an argument for prolonged detention.
Decision: 3000 shekel bail, with 2 guarantors depositing 5000 shekels each within 6 days.
We later asked the attorney why Zaidan’s employer cancelled his permit. He replied that this is a common phenomenon. Perhaps, he hazarded tentatively, an employer who refuses to pay, or who owes the worker several salaries, simply rescinds the permit to avoid paying. We are aware of this practice: this is the twilight zone of the relationship between the army, Israeli employers, Palestinian and Israeli mediators and the population of the Occupied Territories, a system riddled with corruption and exploitation.
Samer Amar – ID 404349417
Charged with illegal entry into Israel. He paid someone 3000 shekels to provide him with a fake entry permit, and was caught on 1.9.13. There is a plea bargain in place: he will pay 1500 shekels, or go to jail for a months and a half. 31 days are left from the day of his arrest.
So far the court’s treasury has received 9500 shekels.
Question: these go-betweens are not secret. The army is well aware of their existence and their activity. Why has none of them come before the court? Perhaps someone finds it convenient that these agents produce fake papers and permits. After all, as we have seen today and many times before, indirectly, they generate a lot of money for the IDF.
The protocol [in Hebrew] from Muhanned Arikat’s trial can be found in the attachment. We recommend that you read it. No further comment is necessary. Just add 3500 shekels to the tally. It now stands at 10,500.
But remember, we left around 12:00; there were 50 more cases in the docket…