Salem - Criminal Offence, Plea Bargain
Translation: Marganit W.
We attended four trials, all criminal cases.
Judge: Avishag Agami Mordechai
Defendant: Assad Ramadan
Defense: Alex Cohen
Charge: Receiving and handling money without permit and contact with the enemy.
The defense presents its arguments for a plea bargain. The story that unfolds cannot really be seen as dealing with “receiving and handling money and contact with the enemy in order to disturb security forces in their attempt to prevent terror activity.”
The defendant is a 40-year old man with no prior convictions. He lives a simple life: has a farm, sells goats and meat. He fell victim to a sting operation in a deal to sell meat. At first they promised to pay him, then they gave him Jordanian money that came from Jordan.
He was interrogated ten time in one week: it was determined that he sold the meat and was supposed to get the money (10.000 dinar). The money (55,000 shekels) was confiscated by the PA and is now held by the Shabak [GSS]. The defendant is, thus, doubly deprived: no meat and no money. He has a family to support and he is asking the court to release the money.
The prosecution requests – in addition to the days he spent in detention – a 2000-shekel fine or 2 months in jail.
The defense remarks that where the man comes from the average daily income is 20 shekels), 12 months suspended sentence for 5 years, during which time he cannot commit certain violations and must refrain from dealing in money illegally.
Arguments for plea bargain: This kind of violation impedes security forces in their fight against terrorism, but in this case there is no proof. The sum involved is considerable. However, he has a clean record, and he pleaded guilty in court, saving the court valuable time. Thus, a plea bargain is warranted.
Punishment: Jail time to coincide with time served, 7 months suspended sentence and 2000 shekels fine. Violations like this make it hard for the authorities to control the flow of money into the region.
The attorney explained to the family how to pay the fine (by mail) and where to send the proof of payment by fax. As soon as the fax is received, the detainee will be released.
The next three cases involved remand extensions. There are no indictments yet.
The charges are: armed robbery, car theft, license forgery, arms possession and impersonating a policeman. Hearings were conducted separately.
Defendant: Tamer Nabil Mustama
Detained since 11.1.16.
Atty. Gonen is present in court but declines to handle the case.
There are no family members present.
The judge orders remand extension of 8 days to complete the investigation. The case will be transferred to the prosecution as a secret file.
Defendant: Muhammad Abu-Tur
Also arrested on 11.1.16.
No family member has shown up in any of his hearings, and his representation has not been arranged. The prosecutor asks to allow the defendant to contact his brother Mujhad to arrange for defense. Until then, Atty. Gonen will represent him.
Defendant: Baher Awalad
Defense: Issam Mrara
The prosecution requests 8-day extension to complete the investigation. The defense does not object. He reports that when his client was under interrogation he asked for a glass of water. He then felt ill, yet they took his statement in which he confessed, except that he did not know what he was saying: he claims that what he drank caused him confusion.
The attorney asks the court to hear the client’s story. He plans to request a separate minor hearing to examine the defendant’s statement. He also wants his client examined to determine what was in the liquid he was given that made him sign a confession.
Even though this hearing does not include an examination of the defendant’s statement, the judge accedes to the attorney’s request.
The defendant’s testimony: “I was in the interrogation room for two days without food or drink. I asked for water and they gave it to me. As soon as I drank, I got confused and did not know where I was or what I was saying. I was taken to interrogation, photographed, laughed at and told to speak to Muhammad, Tamer and Mahmoud. This was 5 days ago. I asked to bring someone who can claim that I stole his car. They brought someone who said I had approached his vehicle and he asked me where I come from. The man in the car aimed a gun at me, so I ran away. I am 23 years old and have never run away from anybody.”
At this point one of the investigators reads from the secret file. He reiterates that on Wednesday and Thursday the man did not eat or drink. “That night, before I confessed, they brought in the man who claimed I had stolen his car. Then I drank the water and afterwards I don’t know what I said.”
The judge wants to know what lab test she should request. She examines the file and says it does not square with the sequence of events as told by the suspect; his admission corresponds with what he had confessed to BEFORE THURSDAY.
The investigator says that a suspect must not be given any substance, not even a headache pill. The suspect’s cousin, Mahmoud Awad, who is under investigation, asked for a headache pill and was refused. Only a prison doctor can provide pills.
The investigator practically dictates to the judge: “His claims don’t hold water.”
[In Claire’s opinion this claim is totally unfounded. Moreover, the remand hearing is not the occasion to discuss the statement and how it was obtained: this should be addressed at the beginning of the actual trial]
Judge to prosecutor: you can expect a separate hearing regarding the water.
There is an argument between the investigator and the defense, but we were unable to hear it.
The chief investigator enters the court. He claims that the defendant’s admissions brought him relief and there is no need for lab tests. The accused, however, is free to lodge a complaint with the Police Investigation Department.