Ofer - Danger to Regional Security, Public Hearing

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Observers: 
Tamar Fleischman, Ofra Ben Artzi (reporting)
13/10/2010
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Morning

Translation: Marganit W.


This time the show benefited from an additional player, whose job description, however, is quite elusive. This is a civilian prosecutor, in civilian garb, paid by a civilian authority (the police). He shows up here at Ofer Military Court alongside the military prosecution and is presented as a "military prosecutor" in the protocol. Who are you, Attorney Yitzhak Hanoch? Where else in
the civilized world a person suspected of a civilian criminal offense is tried in a military court?

We attended the hearing of a defendant suspected of trading in stolen vehicles. He has been detained for eight months "until the conclusion of the proceedings." The defendant is suffering from a chronic disease, has trouble walking and needs crutches.  When exiting the court, he stumbled and fell . The judge referred to his medical condition at the beginning of the hearing and at its end, but who better than the judge knows that beyond the green line, there are many who are suspected of much worse violations who are released on bail. This is a blatant miscarriage of justice.

Judge: Major Shlomo Katz

Military prosecution: represented by Atty. Yitzhak Hanoch

Defense: Atty. Naji Amar

Defendant: Hassan Amran Haj Youssef -  ID 914118104, Case No. 1885/10

Once again, the families were detained for hours at Beituniya Checkpoint, so the sessions had to start late, or proceed without the families present, which is a violation of the principle of public trial. In view of this, at the start of the session, the defense moved to delay the proceeding:

Defense: I object to starting the session while the family is not in the court. The defendant has a basic right to have his family present in the court. This is the principle of public trial...

Military prosecutor: "Maybe my aunt will want to come too, and then be late... It is their fault that they are late, and we cannot wait for them... Witnesses have arrived, despite personal circumstances..."

Defense: "The familes are delayed by the state which stops them at the checkpoint... The witnesses receive a salary for their appearance in court. You cannot draw a parallel between the violation of a defendant's rights to see his family and the presence of witnesses summoned to court.

Judge's decision: "I agree with the learned attorney that it is the right of the defendant and his family to attend the legal proceedings in the court, but this right does not trump other rights.... among them the public's interest in holding the trial, the court's time and the fact that the case includes testimony by summoned witnesses." The judge added, "I will allow the defendant to meet with his family when they get here, even after the hearing is over."

The trial is now in the evidentiary stage.

3 witnesses testified for the prosecution: they are police investigators specializing in vehicles, who were involved in the incrimination of Hassan Yousef. One witness, who testified for about an hour, was cut short by the judge because there were so many other cases before him. The police witnesses protested and the judge promised that in the next hearing (20.10.10) most of  his time would be set aside for testimonies.

Toward the end of the hearing, the defendant's wife arrived. When the hearing was over she was allowed to talk to her husband. She tried to sit close to him, but was pushed back. She told us that during her husband's incarceration she had had a miscarriage. They have 4 children.

The attorney tells us that Hassan owns a used car lot in the village of Qibiya, near Ramallah. The attorney tried to release his client on bail, but to no avail: the court maintained that the charge against Hassan - three stolen vehicles and ten engines - constitutes "danger to the public welfare". The attorney presented the court with a deposition claiming that Hassan purchased the vehicles from the Palestinian Authority, but this, too, was to no avail. Eventually, he had to settle for a plea bargain, in order to shorten his client's detention, but the prosecution set a very high price, which forced the defense to continue the legal process, which is bound to be long because of the many witnesses and the elaborate technical aspects. Had Hassan been released on bail, he would not have minded a lengthy trial to prove his innocence.

This case demonstrates that there is no such thing as a Palestinian "Prisoners dilemma" *, because a Palestinian detainee can have no dilemma. The sovereign (the army, the GSS etc) determines beforehand the length of his incarceration - with or without a plea bargain -  and the rest is just a show trial. It is therefore obvious that in the Palestinian's case the difference between detention and prison time is merely cosmetic.

* see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prisoner's_dilemma