Ofer - Plea Bargain, Stone Throwing
Translation: Marganit W.
Courtroom 4 with Justice Etty Adar
The waiting court in front of the entrance and the turnstile was full of family members. We thought that the crowdedness in the court was due to the recent wave of arrests by the army, but this was a misconception: most of the cases we heard concerned detainees who have been in detention for months, sometimes more than a year, whose trials drag over long periods of time.
There were 25 cases in Justice Adar’s docket.
Six of them of people accused of manufacturing and throwing an incendiary object,
16 were accused of membership and activity: holding a position or providing services for a proscribed organization.
The hearings took place between 9AM to 5PM. Subtracting break time and lunch, the judge had an average of 20 minutes for each defendant, including typing the indictment in Arabic, handing it to the defendants and their families and short exchanges between counsel and client.
Hassin Yaakub Mustafa Ajreb – ID 984141077
An older man from the village of Kibiya.
He is accused of bringing enemy money into the region. The defense explains to him that according to the plea agreement, the penalty is 24 months of administrative detention.
Now Hassin recants his denial of the charges, so instead of 24 months administrative detention another sentence will be given on 17.2.15.
We have no information about the “enemy money” that is confiscated from Palestinians and goes into the state or the army’s coffers. It would be interesting to trace those sums of money.
Atiya Muhammad Atiya Abu-Baker – ID 415061688
Atiya is a business administration student at the open Al Quds University.
He is accused of throwing objects between July and August 2014 in the Bethlehem area.
He admits his guilt and the judge sets the penalty at 2000 shekels, or two month in jail. The sides came to an agreement, taking into consideration the elapsed time, his clean record and (of course) the weak evidence. The judge approves the agreement.
The sentence: 6 months and a day prison time, 8-month suspended sentence for 4 days and 2000 shekels. It was not clear if he was arrested in August 2014 – i.e., he has been in prison for 16 months - or was arrested now following incrimination (in the last big wave of arrests of young people).
In a civilian court the defense would have argued that the phrase “between July and August” of last year is not sufficient evidence for conviction, but in military courts, they just remark “weak evidence” and move to sentencing.
Marwan Fuad Taysir Sabah – ID 859695306
Accused of throwing objects.
Atty. Shaheen moved for a postponement until 12.1.16 and it was approved.
The detainee has just arrived at Ofer and is still wearing civilian clothes.
The judge waits for his parents to arrive in court before she begins the hearing.
Atiya Mahmoud Saleem Kadah – ID 855003380
Atiya is a construction worker from the village of Shukba.
He is accused of manufacturing and throwing an incendiary object.
Atty. Tawhid Sha’aban requests and gets a postponement until 29.12.15.
Tamer Yasser Hamad Shawamra – ID 852230721
Charge: possession and trading. The charge is couched in very vague terms for a reason.
Tamer is 24 years old. For 5 years he was in prison and was released in a prisoners exchange. Two weeks ago he was summoned to the police and was arrested. His mother does not know why he is detained, but she told us that his health is failing and in fact he looked sick.
The trial will resume on 30.12.15.
Saed – ID 401309612 and Ali – ID 860093228 Mufaq Mussa Mezahemare brothers.
They are accused of manufacturing and throwing an incendiary object. They were arrested in March this year, so they have been in prison for nine months. Their attorney Haled Alaraj is trying to reach an agreement with the prosecution.
Ahmad Fadel Saed Alhandi – ID 852275163
Again, the charge is manufacturing and throwing an incendiary object, but Ahmad has been detained for a year and two days and his trial is still pending. His attorney Alarj is trying to reach an agreement with the prosecution.
The detainees we saw were not arrested in the latest wave of arrests; some of them have been in detention for a long time, in some cases, over a year. It is not clear why. In none of the hearings was ‘evidentiary trial’ mentioned, which means there will be a plea bargain. So why the long delay? It would be easy to say that the court, which is the long arm of the military, is interested to keep them in jail for lengthy periods to “thin out” the population that opposes it, i.e., youngsters between the ages of 20 and 30. But this was not our impression: we saw the judge berating the attorneys and pleading with them to “bring the case to conclusion”.
Are the attorneys dragging their feet or are they contending with a large number of cases, which is why they constantly ask for extensions. If these were evidentiary trials, they could be excused, but all the hearings we observed ended with plea bargains, which is the common practice in the military courts.
We realized that if we want to find out why the lengthy delays in cases of rock and firebomb throwing – violations that always end with plea bargains – we’d have to ask the family members when the arrests were made.
We will try to do so in the following visits.