Ofer - Plea Bargain, Stone Throwing

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Tova Szeintuch, Roni Hammermann (reporting)

Courtroom No.2

Judge Shmuel Kedar

I have only one way to sum up the events of this morning in court: a tragic farce. We have here a stage, an audience and a show, which only makes mockery of regular court procedures. A theatrical farce can amuse the public, but our farce is supposed to make the participants and the onlookers believe that they partake in a process of finding the truth. The tragic side is, of course, that the fate of real people is being decided in this dubious procedure. 

Defendants are entitled to a due process. They have to get the opportunity to be heard, personally and/or by their defense attorneys.

On Monday morning, in Military Court Ofer, nothing of this kind could happen.

The court room turned into a market place.

Everybody, except for the defendants and the judge, was busy moving around and talking. 2 or 3 defendants were sitting in the dock, and it was absolutely impossible to make out whose turn it was. It was impossible to hear what was being said by the judge, by the defense lawyer or by the defendant. The prisoners were led in and led out, and so were their families. Soldiers and prison wards were coming and going, speaking to each other and yelling at the family members who were allowed to sit on the back benches only.

Fife or six defense attorneys were present simultaneously at court. They consulted with each other, talked with their clients and informed the family members of the state of affairs. The 2 translators could not be heard. From time to time they were raising their voices and tried to overcome the general hubbub. 

The judge Shmuel Kedar, did not have a loud enough voice and could not make himself heard. This did not seem to bother him and he made no serious attempts to bring some order into the court. At a certain moment we heard him saying: "I do not know the particulars of this files, but this is what normally happens in cases like this...." From time to time one of the interpreters banged his hand on the table and screamed "quiet", and for half a minute the noise subsided. One of the defendants was involved in a conversation with his brother on the back bench, and the prison ward barked at him to shut up. At the same time his defense lawyer was pleading his case with the judge.  I wonder if the judge knew whose case was being heard.

In the middle of this turmoil we heard the raised voice of defense lawyer Shahin who declared that his client understands the charges and that he pleads guilty. Then the judge Shmuel Kedar pronounced the sentence, which we could not understand, of course. The impression was that the least important participants in this farce were the detaineesinfo-icon.

This is the backdrop for fatal decisions made by the court, which determine the defendant's life.

We spent 1 1/2 hours in the courtroom. During this time 8 files were discussed. Two of the files concerned defendants who were not detained, and we could not find their file numbers in the list of the planned hearings. In addition the following cases were discussed during this session:

Nr. 1768/07, Muhammed Ahmad Ramadan Matir,  901553933, charged with being an office bearer, defense attorney Ahlam Hadad. The prosecution was supposed to answer a submission of the defense, but did not do it. The next hearing was scheduled for April.

Nr. 5232/07 and 1978/05, Suliman Halil Agram Abu Galiyah, 942967738, charged with dealing with weapons and dealing with drugs. A new defense attorney was to be appointed, the next hearing scheduled for 5.3.08.

Nr. 32444/07, Dif Alla Amer Mustafa Amariya, 940838451, charged with membership in a hostile organization. Defense lawyer Iliya Teodory. We could not make out the next scheduled hearing.

Nr. 6027/07, Malek Sami  Ismail Algandi, 15 years old, 853474815, charged with throwing stones. Defense attorney M. Shahin. The defendant confessed to have thrown stones, and a plea bargain was arranged. Announcement of the sentence: 3 1/2 months imprisonment + IS 1500 fine, and the moment the fine will be payed, the boy will be released.

Nr. 6117/07, Ismail Muhammed Abed Alkader, 850580192, charged with membership in a hostile organization. He wrote slogans for Hamas. Defense attorney M. Shahin.

We could not understand for what date the next hearing was scheduled.