Ofer - Interrogation of Witness, Criminal Offence
Translation: Marganit W.
In Courtroom 2 trials of minors took place.
For some reason, Atty. Ahmad Safiya objected to our presence, perhaps he was being particularly strict about proper procedure where minors are concerned.
We were told by the prosecutor in Courtroom 1 that there were only arraignments there, and in Courtroom 3 only administrative hearings took place, with no detainees present.
We entered Courtroom 4 and received the docket list; it turned out that the format had changed. The names of judge and prosecutor were absent. There were no charges next to the defendants’ names and no ID numbers.
We were able to observe only one evidentiary hearing. The rest were arraignments or decisions. Each hearing lasted less than 5 minutes. There were exchanges between the defense and the judge, next to the bench, so we could not hear anything.
Judge: Captain Haim Balilti
Prosecutor: Lieut. Rafi Shwantzler
Defendant: Marwan Hadib Muhammad Awad – Case 5314/14
Defense: Abu Munzer
As far as we could gather the charge had something to do with sale (or purchase) of stolen vehicle/s.
Prosecution Witness Shadi was dressed in sports gear, even though he too is a detainee and his trial is pending. His feet were shackled and he had big stitches around his head.
Based on his answers – as seen below – we wondered if he had not suffered head injury, but this never came up in the hearing. The witness seemed to suffer from the long examination and from being bombarded by questions he claimed he had already answered. It was a long and tedious examination. Like the witness, I too (MM) felt confused and could not understand the incessant repetition. The main testimony – the way the police and Shabac [GSS] interrogations were conducted – was not addressed, and it is doubtful that it will be grounds for disqualification of his testimony. The entire examination was conducted through an interpreter.
The prosecutor examined the witness about his testimony to the police, referring also to his testimony in other cases.
Shadi, a construction worker, was arrested on charges of car theft. At the start he declared that he had said everything at the police, could not remember much because it’s been a long time since his arrest. Asked if he knew what was in the indictment, he said No, he could not remember.
Asked if he remembered the defendant, he said he had met him in jail for the first time, and no, he did not remember him.
Asked about his connection to Yasser Jamal, he said they were friends and together they bought two cars, but not stolen cars, they were cars destined to be dismembered (Mashtuba, in Arabic).
The prosecutor asked about the police interrogation; the witness did not remember anything. Defensively, he said it was his first arrest and he was confused and scared. He could not say who had interrogated him, the police or Shabac.
Asked if he was given the proper warning before the interrogation, he said he could not remember. He was blindfolded. It was his first time and he was very scared. The prosecutor “refreshes his memory” and shows him his statement, written in Arabic. But the witness has already said that he is illiterate and does not know what he signed on. He repeated that he did not remember anything.
As to the question what DOES he remember, he said that when they start mentioning details, he remembers a little.
Atty. Munzer intervened saying that if there is a question regarding the witness’s credibility, this is not the place to raise it (it was not clear to us why – MM).
The witness repeated that the fear and the pressure of the interrogation made him say yes to everything.
At his Police (or Shabac, he could not say which) interrogation he said he had bought two cars from Marwan (the defendant). Now he denies it.
The prosecution declared him a hostile witness.
The judge dictated his decision: the witness is declared hostile because he contradicts himself on essential points.
The prosecutor sayd he will focus his questions from now on. For a year now the witness and Jamal have been partners in a business involving stolen vehicles. They have a garage where they keep the stolen cars. They bought 2 or 3 cars. The witness, however, denied these allegations. The prosecutor asked, Where is your yard? He answered, There is no yard.
The witness was asked what he knows about the sale or purchase of a White Hyundai (I could not hear the year). He said, It is true that I bought a car, but I don’t remember the license number and I don’t know if it was stolen. It was not he who bought the car, but someone named Bassem who brought it to them. His statement to the police was read (saying that Marwan stole the car).The witness denied having said it, claiming it is not true. He repeated that he was under stress and that the interrogators made it all up.
He just said Yes to everything they said.
His testimony was compared to that of Yasser: How is it possible that they both say the same things if they are not true? The defense objected, but the judge rejected the objection. The witness claimed that the interrogator told him, Yasser said so-and-so, and out of fear, he agreed. He had been in and out of solitary confinement, the interrogations occurred in different locations and he was scared and confused. He reiterated that the cars were not stolen. He cannot stand any more questioning, but the examination continued.
Prosecutor: In May Bassem contacted you and told you about people bringing stolen cars. Is this true?
The witness says No.
Prosecutor: Your partner Yasser said he went with Bassen to see the car. Is he lying too?
The witness says: I have never been in jail. They told me this and that and I said Yes, It was the state I was in. I was scared and under pressure. I would have said yes to anything.
He was asked about the three abducted youths. Where he had been at the time, not specifically about the kidnapping. He was interrogated under extraordinary conditions. By the time he was brought to Ofer he had lost 15 kilos.
Prosecutor: If you admitted everything, why not the abduction of the three boys? (even though he testified that he had not been asked about the abduction itself – MM). The prosecutor did not wait for the reply.
Prosecutor: How much did you pay for the Hyundai?
Witness: 6000 or 7000.
Prosecutor: You bought for 6000 and sold it for 7100, right?
Witness: I can’t remember.
Prosecutor: Remember who you sold it to?
Witness: I tend to forget.
Prosecutor: You say you don’t remember anything, but you remember exactly how much you paid for the car.
Witness: I have nothing to add. I can’t take it any more. I already answered you. I don’t remember anything.
Asked if he recognizes Marwan Awad (sitting on the defendants bench):.
Yes, he met him in jail. He never bought a car from him.
On 24.6.14, when shown police photos, he identified Awad saying, This is Marwan.
The witness said that the defendant was brought into the room. He was told his name is Marwan and they wrote the name under the photo. “The interrogator told me to write my name under the photo and I did.
Prosecutor: How much does a Hyundai 30 cost?
Witness: I don’t know.
Prosecutor: You knew the car was stolen. This happened at Yehuda Precinct on 1.7.
The witness remembered being taken to interrogation, asked about the car and told, If you keep denying it, you’ll stay here. If you say it’s stolen, you’ll be released.
Prosecutor: Did they apply pressure during the interrogations?
Witness: no, I was blindfolded the whole time.
Prosecutor: In your testimony in court on 4.1 you were asked abut the interrogations, and you said there had been blows, you had been put in solitary confinement and you were blindfolded. Did you lie to the court?
Witness: They sent me here and there. I was confused and scared.
Prosecutor: Why did you tell the court you had been beaten?
Witness: I don’t remember if I was beaten or shoved.
Prosecutor: How did it affect you?
Witness: I was in an unusual mental state. I was beaten during all the interrogations. I was handcuffed and blindfolded. I was scared all the time.
He was shown a couple of printed pages and then asked: All this was written by the interrogator (that is, not your words- MM)
Witness: I said it out of fear. I was in a difficult mental state.
Prosecutor: Here’s a simple, short question: In three pages, you tell a long detailed story about Bassem and the Hyundai. This too you were told to write?
Witness: He did the writing; he asked me things, and I can’t read or write. So I said Yes to everything.
Cross-examination by the defense:
Q: How many times were you interrogated by the Shabac? Two? Three? Were you alone at the police? At any police station?
A: I don’t remember. Sometimes there were 2 sometimes 3 policemen.
What does the witness do for a living? He is a construction worker. Anything else? Buying? Selling? The witness said this was the only time he bought 2 cars, with Yasser.
As for the cars, they were Hyundai and Skoda. The witness said that he got confused by all the questions. The only one he remembers is the Huyndai.
Who brought you the car?
I don’t know. I don’t know who brought them to Bassem.
Where did you put them?
On the main road.
How long have you known Bassem?
Ten months, maybe a year. I don’t know exactly.
During this period you handled only 3 cars?
Did you get it during the day or at night?
During the day – I don’t remember the exact time.
You remember the person who brought it in?
Who brought it in?
I don’t remember.
How did you become a partner?
Every question adds to my confusion.
How did you become partner with Bassem? What does he do?
Where does he live? Far or near?
A little further.
Who did you sell the vehicles to?
How much did you get?
Can’t remember exactly. I was arrested at 4 or 5 AM. I was blindfolded, I don’t remember any more.
Did you consult an attorney before your arrest?
He was barred from seeing an attorney. He had never been arrested before. This is his first time in prison. He did not know he could bring an attorney.
Were you allowed to talk to your family when you were in detention?
Married with 3 kids. A daughter was born while he was in jail.
When you saw the vehicles for the first time, who was with Bassem?
I don’t know. After all the interrogations, I don’t remember anything.
Do you know Marwan?
I met him in jail. They showed me his picture at the interrogation.
Was anyone else present?
You were interrogated in the interrogation room?
When you were arrested, Did they take anything from your house? Car parts?
No, only the phone.
Who was the car sold to by Bassem?
I don’t remember. You already asked me.
You only care about the money? Not who you sell it to?
I don’t remember and I have nothing to add.
The attorney showed him a signature. The witness said it is his name, but he was not sure that this is his signature. The attorney showed him five signatures on minutes of interrogations that he signed, each of them looking different, and asked, “Which one is yours?” One of them he identified as his from a previous interrogation. The witness said, this is his name, but he was not sure it is his signature.
Defense: How do you usually sign your name?
The witness could not answer. Asked if he has a bank account, he said No.
Defense: When kids bring report cards from school, how do you sign?
Witness: They never show me their report card.
Have you been to a hospital for checkups?
Yes, he had his ears checked.
There was a short debate with the judge regarding the fact that the witness is being tried like a defendant. There may be a plea bargain.
A hearing with another witness is scheduled for 31.12.14