Ofer - Health Problems, Palestinians staying illegally in Israel

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Ivonne Mansbach, Hava Halevi (reporting)

It is a gloriously sunny day. Only one courtroom is operational in the whole compound, and 19 cases are scheduled. The reason is that the various teams – soldiers, judges, prosecutors, clerks, computer technicians, guards – almost every one except Judge Azriel Levy and the police in charge of operating the turnstile – are all out on some “bonding retreat”. When did they decide that on this Wednesday the entire workforce would go on retreat? Did they postpone hearings that were set months ago? And what about the families who required permits to cross the checkpoints; will they have to go through this cumbersome bureaucracy again, the trials, the crossings, the co-ordinations with the lawyers….


Raji Atrash – caught staying illegally in Israel

Defense: Atty. Mahmoud Hassan


Raji Atrash, a middle aged man, was caught inside Israel while already serving a suspended sentence. He knew he was endangering himself, since he has no permit and he is already “in trouble” with the law. But there is no food in the house, no heat, no medication…


The defense mentioned something about “medical conditions” in the detainee’s family”. This is known to the prosecution and to the judge, who told him, “You seem like a serious man, not a kid… You have a prior record. Thus, I accept the plea bargain, even though the penalty is lenient”. Sure, lenient.


Decision: Prison time to coincide with time already served in jail (meaning he is free to go home today), 45 days suspended sentence for 2 years and 2500 shekels fine.


The rest of the cases were all under the rubric of “Judicial review”, meaning that the detaineesinfo-icon are brought before the judge so he/she would confirm that they can stand trial: not sick, not seriously injured, compos mentis  etc. Thus, Justice Azriel Levy made sure to ask each detainee, “How are you?”

Muhammad Shamrouk , 19 years old, studying computer science at Bethlehem University.


After a decision was given for a  remand extension until next Wednesday, the parents asked to address the court.

The attorney explained that Muhammad had undergone an operation and requires a girdle. He asked to allow the girdle to be given to Muhammad in court. The judge was a bit surprised. “I asked how he was doing, and he said Fine. This is not an idle question” We noted earlier that the judge indeed asked each detainee how he was feeling. Now we see that it is not an idle question. For the judge, it is part of the protocol, for the detainee it is an idle question that has no beneficial result.

The judge wanted to see the “protocol of the escort” – the documents that accompany the detainee from jail to court. The escort – Nahshon Unit - in charge of transporting the detainees – are supposed to document every detail of the people in custody: date of arrest, age, facility (if not Ofer), medical condition etc. Where is the protocol that will corroborate the attorney’s claim regarding the girdle? The protocol isn’t there.

The detainee had undergone surgery and the girdle is needed for his recovery. The girdle is at home. A decision needs to be made regarding bringing the girdle to jail. The judge did not promise that the girdle would be brought to prison, he wants the prison doctor to decide if it is necessary.


Over years of observing the courts, we noted the frequent reference to the prison doctors and their role in the interrogations, holding facilities and the prisons. The scope of their responsibilities is wide: as far as we can see, their job is not necessarily to guarantee the detainees’ health, but to see how far the system can go without actually risking the detainees’ lives.

There is one bright spot: the instructions of the Israeli Physicians Organizations forbidding force feeding of political prisoners on hunger strike.