Ofer - Fines, Incriminators
Translation: Marganit W.
Judge: Major Sebastian Ossovsky
There are 35 cases in the docket, 15 of throwing objects, 7 of possession or trading in combat materiel, and the rest of leaving the area without a permit, membership and activity in unauthorized association, and property violations.
Tariq Samah Fares Alkhatib – ID 860052778
Defense: Keren Toren Hibler (from Gaby Lasky’s law firm)
Tariq, 24, resident of Beit Rima, admitted – as part of a plea bargain- that at the beginning of 2018, during disturbances in the village, he threw a firebomb at security forces. An army vehicle was damaged. At the same period he participated in another incident where he and others hurled firebombs from a distance of 18 meters. The same year, at Nabi Saleh he and others threw about 30 rocks at security forces.
This indictment has more holes than a fishnet. There are no dates, no locale mentioned, no identification. Indeed, the military prosecutor admitted that “the events took place a while ago, and there is significant lack of evidence concerning the charges.”
This “lack of evidence” a term often overlooked in hearings, is the hallmark of the unfair and repressive military legal system. It tells the story of suppression, opposition, interrogation, threats, torture, extracted incriminations and intimidation.
Here is a likely scenario: someone from Beit Rima or Nabi Saleh was arrested, interrogated and gave – of course of his free will – the names of other men who then were arrested and also confessed – out of free will, of course – and named names, including Tariq.
In his verdict, the judge noted that “the significant deficiency of evidence in the case led to significant leniency in sentencing and, of course, to the defense relinquishing its arguments. Why ‘of course’? In order to reach a plea bargain that included 20-month prison time, 15 months probation for 5 years and the condition that “for five years from his release the defendant will not commit a similar violation or willfully endanger human life.”
Who is that human? Soldier or settler. The vague term “”willfully endanger a human life” can be applied to many possible situations that will allow the authorities to arrest Tariq again, try him and imprison him for violating the terms of his probation.
And of course, there is a monetary fine of 4000 shekels (or 4 months in prison) to fill the army’s coffers and impoverish the Palestinian economy some more.
We attended 6 more hearings, all involving throwing objects.
In each the defense requested a postponement.
Hani Faiz Abed Alhafez Zaro – ID 854937133
Defense: Nissim Shmaia
We reported on this case in an earlier report.
The lives of 10 Zaro family members are the embodiment of the evil bureaucratic entanglement of the occupation. They are illegal residents in their own home. Here is their story as told us by Atty. Shmaia and Atty. Lea Tsemel, who represented the family at various periods.
The Zaro family has lived in their house since 1992. In 2003 Israel began erecting a separation wall, which was completed a year later. The builders, however, ignored the people involved. The family’s house remained on the western side of the wall, inside Israel, thus separating them from the Palestinian territory. Their ID cards belong to the Hebron area, where their kids went to school.
The family comprises of 10 members: father, mother and children.
In 2016 they were given permits from Israel to cross the fence at Sawahra Checkpoint.
Sometimes during 2011 someone noticed that they live in an area over which Israel claims sovereignty, and their permits were revoked. Troubles ensued, and they sought help.
Atty. Yasmin Barhoum wrote to the public inquiries officer at the Civil Administration, as well as to the DCO of the ‘Jerusalem Envelope’, and received the following reply:
“You are hereby informed that your client and his family have been added to the list of people permitted to cross Sawahra Checkpoint, based on current assessment. The authorities reserve the right to revoke this decision as they see fit.”
Apparently, they “saw fit” because the permits were revoked and they were told through their attorney that, “they can no longer pass using the ‘crossing numbers’ and need to obtain proper permits.”
The stench of oppressive bureaucracy here is sky high. The purpose is to embitter the lives of the residents.
Indeed, in February 3 members of the family were taken to the police station and detained there. Then the nightly raids began. During 2016 Atty. Tsemel’s law firm sent letters to the Civil Administration, DCO and the legal council of the Ministry of Defense – to no avail. They are stopped at the checkpoint, separated from the Palestinian territories and exposed to nightly raids – all done legally.
Atty. Nissim Shmaia, who is handling the case now, has also been corresponding with the Jerusalem Envelope Administration, the Border Police, the Minister of the Interior, the HCJ division at the AG’s office and with AG Mandelblitt, who transferred the case to his deputy who replied that “this is a complicated issue and we are trying to find a solution.”
We met the father, Faiz Zaro at Ofer, because his son Hani was “captured” or “arrested” at the checkpoint and charges have been pressed… Now the case has come in front of the military judge who is supposed to solve a case that all the other instances could not (or did not want to) solve.
This is a particularly vicious story. The bureaucrats are trying to disentangle the mess that they themselves created. If they allow one family to live a normal life, then many others who are in a similar situation will use this as a precedent, which will undermine the absolute power that the army, the Border Police, the Civil Administration, the Jerusalem Envelope administration and the military courts exert over these victims and other families.