Ofer - Plea Bargain, Sentence

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Norah Orlow., Ofra Ben Artzi (reporting)

Translation: Jonathan M.

The strike declared by Arab lawyers in protest of "Israeli crimes against civilians in Gaza" continued today. Their clients' deliberations were very short, and they all had to be rescheduled by a few weeks. At least some of the families had an opportunity to briefly see their loved ones. However, at 11:45 the translators came out to the courtyard and notified people that there were no more hearings left for that day and that they all had to leave. When we asked to explain to us what they had said in Arabic, they responded: "nothing".

Family members expressed their deep disappointment and anger and pointed towards the nearby buildings where there loved ones were waiting (needless to mention the effort that it takes for the families to reach the Military Court in Ofer).

We attended 2 hearings that were conducted by Jewish lawyers, who were not on strike. In addition we are reporting a female detainee.

Judge: Hilit Bar-On Biber,

Prosecutor: Major Adi Noy

Defense Lawyer: Attorney Alberstadt

Defendant: Murad Siaj

Charge: membership and activity in an illegal organization.

The defendant, Murad Siaj, his brother and the attorney entered the courtroom shortly after the beginning of the hearing. Apparently, he had been released on an 8,000 NIS bail, in August 2008, after being detained for a month and barred from meeting his attorney.

In the meantime, the sides reached a plea bargain and agreed on a revised indictment, for "evidential difficulties" and a "clean record", among other things.

Siaj is charged with "membership and activity" in the [unauthorized] Hamas organization during the years 1990-1995. In addition, he is charged for taking part in Hamas's political campaigining in 2005-2006 (when it was a legal party). Also, he transferred funds to needy families through a Hamas activist. Finally he was charged of reading a banned Hamas book and then burning it.

The defense lawyer emphasized that these activities were perfomed 13 years ago, that Siaj comes from a good and law abiding family, and that his record was clean..

After the judge approved the plea bargain, he sentenced Siaj to 1 year probation for two years and a 1,500 NIS fine.

A female detainee: Sanaa Suliman Abu Salach, 25 years old, from El Hader, visually impaired.

We learned about the charge from the mother who was sitting in the courtroom. Sanaa went to a checkpoint and tried to attack [soldiers] with some sort of instrument. The evidentiary hearing (a policeman and a civilian are summoned as witnesses of the prosecution) was postponed for two weeks due to the strike. The judge promised that the evidentiary stage will come to a close by the end of February.

Sanaa's mother was sitting next to us. She told us that Sanna's father had died and that the family was facing financial hardship. Sanaa is "solitary" in the Sharon prison, with no possibility of supplying her with clothes.

Tirza Tauber from the Committee for Female Prisoners promised that one of their lawyers will visit Sanaa as soon as possible.

Panel of 3 Judges headed by Lieutenant-Colonel Tzvi Lekach

Prosecutor: Orit Fargi

Defense Lawyer: Avi Bar-Am

Defendant: Shadi Al Tawil, Case Nr. 4839/07

Shadi Al-Tawil was arrested in 2007, due to a shooting that took place in 2005. He admits to having driven people who participated in the shooting.

He cooperated during the investigation, admits his mistake and asked that the fact that he comes from a good and educated family be taken into account. Both he and his brother (who was present) are lawyers.

The sides reached an agreement that revoked the harsh charge of "attempted murder". According to the revised indictment, Shadi was charged with "providing shelter" [to a wanted man]. Here again the "evidential difficulty", his favourable family background and a clean record helped in contributed to the agreement.

Sentence: 18 months incarceration, one year probation for three years and a 10,000 NIS fine.

He will be released in 40 days.

Prisoner: Hussam Shaheen

This hearing too was cancelled due to the strike; however Hussam had an opportunity to meet his father in the courtroom. The father told us that a new charge was brought up against Hussam [a year ago] based on incrimination. We will check with the lawyer what this is about and will continue to follow the case.

In the past we have followed very closely Hussam's previous trial which ended with a sentence of 18 years (http://www.machsomwatch.org/he/22_10_07).

Hussam is confined in the Ramon prison.