Ofer - Stone Throwing, Danger to Regional Security

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Yehudit Keshet, Ofra Ben Artzi (reporting)

Translation: Marganit W.

There were no updated dockets in the boxes outside the courtrooms.

This is a recurrent problem, despite a promise by the court to supply a daily roster of cases, as is the custom in Israeli courts. This sloppiness is detrimental to those attending the hearings and to the attorneys who waste time looking for the hall where their cases are heard.

We attended 10 hearings (including 2 involving minors) presided by Justice Major Moshe Levi. They all resulted in ‘remand extensions until the conclusion of procedure'.

The judge based all his decisions on "precedents" set by the Military Court of Appeals, and was consistently strict in his judgment, even though most of the defendants were first time offenders with no criminal record. The charges included: political activity (membership in illegal organisations, holding positions in those organisations etc.), rock throwing, and illegal stay in Israel. There were repeated postponements of hearings to allow the defense to study the case.

Two attorneys were from the Department of Prisoners of the Palestinian Authority.

Judge: Major Moshe Levi

Prosecutor: Captain Odelia Amos

Defense: Nasser Nubani

1. Shadi Shbeita, minor, 16.5 years old.

The boy is accused of membership and activity in a unit of the Popular Front. The defense has just received the case, so the hearing is postponed by 6 days.

2. Alaa Aladin Alkam - ID. No. 411584683.

The defendant is a minor, 14 years old. He was arrested on 23.11.08 on charge that he threw rocks at vehicles driving on Road 443. The judge accepts testimony the accused gave to the police and stresses that this is a serious offence that involves ‘endangerment to the area'. Here is an astonishing quote from the judge's decision:

"Normally, I would not hesitate to side with the prosecution, but the defendant is a 14 years old, who looks even younger. The prospect of a child incarcerated in the same cell with adult criminals mandates that we look for an alternative to detention. Had the defense come up with a suitable alternative, we might have acceded. Unfortunately, I am not satisfied with the alternatives suggested, and the defendant's father is not present in court. Moreover, this court is bound by the decisions of the Military Court of Appeals, so I must extend the remand. This policy of the Court of Appeals should be re-examined periodically, as I am sure it will be when the question is brought again to the Court of Appeals.

Remand extension for 3 days.

Amazing hairsplitting! A veritable bleeding heart this judge!

3. Ahmed Rajami, from Hebron, 52 years old, arrested while staying illegally in Israel. The defendant had no legal defense. He agreed to the judge's suggestion that the court appoint Attorney Nubani as his defense, but only after ascertaining that it would not cost him anything. He looked old and very tired.

On 19.11.08 he was caught using a rope to climb "unlawfully" on the security fence into Israeli territory. While the prosecution belabored the "endangerment" aspect of the charge, the defense painted a picture of an elderly man, with no prior criminal or security violations, who, driven by economic hardships and the search for work, committed the felony. When Jews find themselves in the PA territory by mistake, the authorities do not detain them, but returns them promptly to Israel.

The defense moves to release him on bail. The Judge orders remand extension, basing his judgment "on the Military Court of Appeals' long list of precedents mandating detention for reasons of endangerment... I see no reason to deviate from these decisions..."

4. Yasser Rajub, - ID. No 991905989, about 50 years old. (He is the brother of Jibril Rajub).

Prosecutor: Captain Nir Keidar

Defense: Attorneys Anuar Abu-Laffi, Sha'aban

The defendant is charged with "membership" in Hamas and "activity" and  "holding position" in the Islamic Charity Association of Hebron, which is classified as "illegal organization". He hired a worker and solicited donations.

We will not go into the details of the hearing, which included a large number of incriminators, a photo line-up and the defendant's checkered past (he is Jibril Rajub's brother). We'll focus instead on the issue of the wholesale criminalization of civic organizations in the occupied territories.

The defense, Abu-Laffi, inveighed against this practice, claiming that since 1967 many organizations have been declared illegal, including Fatah, which is now conducting negotiations with the Israeli government. The defense  called for making a clear distinctions between the various organizations. In this case, the organization is a charity caring for orphans. There is no evidence of any other activity. Abu-Laffi stressed an important point: According to Islam, Muslims must donate 2.5% of their income to charity. Only through these charitable organizations can the faithful fulfill this commitment .

[Observer's note: On top of the political persecution, this is RELIGIOUS persecution].

As noted above, the judge disregarded the defense's arguments, citing higher instances: "...The Military Court of Appeals ruled that membership in Hamas, even through charitable associations, justifies detention for reasons of ‘endangerment', even when no actual activity has been demonstrated... I see no reason to deviate from the key decisions of the Military Court of Appeals."

Unfortunately, political-religious persecution of Hamas occurs in the U.S as well. See: